A special assist provides Towson a winning edge

September 21, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Towson State's offense was in gear nearly the entire game. Sophomore quarterback Dan Crowley threw for 234 yards, and junior Tony Vinson wasn't to be denied on the winning drive, which helped the Tigers finish with another 202 yards on the ground. Bucknell was even more productive, however, as the Bi- son piled up 501 yards in total offense.

So what was the Tigers' edge in a 24-21 comeback victory at Minnegan Stadium Saturday, the first for coach Gordy Combs? How about special teams, a facet of the game that hasn't been so special for Towson State (1-1) in recent years.

Buddy Dunn, a sophomore from Lancaster, Pa., nailed all three of his extra-point attempts, and his 28-yard field goal midway through the third quarter was the Tigers' only point production during a 43-minute span during which Bucknell (1-2) got all three of its touchdowns.

Bucknell missed a 20-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half, and Eric Hacker's point-after attempt on the first Bison touchdown was blocked by Dedin Witherspoon. A sophomore from Newport News, Va., Witherspoon's 35-yard kickoff return sparked the two-touchdown rally that overcame a 21-10 deficit and ended the Tigers' six-game losing streak at home.

"We made some changes on our special teams, and they came through big," said Combs, an assistant coach the past 19 years who replaced Phil Albert in February. "The defense gave up a lot of yardage, but it kept Bucknell out of the end zone in the fourth quarter, and Crowley didn't get rattled early when things weren't going so well."

Crowley, who completed 15 of 30 attempts, wasn't the hottest quarterback on the field, as Bucknell sophomore Travis Kopp had 29 completions for a career-high 353 yards. He had a touchdown pass in each of the first three quarters, the last a 30-yarder to David Berardinelli with 2:13 left in the third quarter that could have devastated the Tigers.

Instead, Witherspoon returned the kickoff into Bison territory. Five plays and less than two minutes later, on second-and-20 from the 44, Crowley led Mark Orlando 2 yards into the end zone on a post pattern, and the difference was only 21-17 entering the fourth quarter.

Bucknell drove right back to the Towson State 11-yard line, where Kopp and Berardinelli had two chances to re-establish the 11-point spread, but the Tigers defense held. Vinson and a veteran offensive line then took control on the winning drive, which covered 89 yards in 11 plays.

Vinson, a junior transfer from Purdue, had 140 yards on 26 carries, and 68 of those yards came on the winning drive. He broke five tackles on a draw that turned into a 25-yard touchdown run with 7:27 left.

Marcellus Campbell batted down Kopp's pass into the end zone on the game's last play.

"It's big, really big," Vinson said in describing his first victory in a Towson State uniform. "We entered this year determined to turn things around, and there's nothing bigger than a come-from-behind win to boost your confidence. Now, we've got to build on this."

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