Slow start brings end to Towson streak, 16-14 Liberty prevails for 6th year in row

October 04, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

The restoration of Towson State football was slowed last night at Minnegan Stadium, as the Tigers were beaten for the sixth straight year by Liberty, 16-14.

The Tigers (2-2) entered with a two-game winning streak that featured superb second-half play, and they were looking to equal their victory total of the past two seasons.

They finished strong again last night, getting both of their touchdowns in the last 16 minutes, but couldn't overcome a 16-0 first-quarter deficit against the Flames (3-2), who had blown an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter at North Carolina A&T last week.

"Turnovers in the first half killed us," Towson first-year coach Gordy Combs said. "We can't play any better defensively and we moved the ball, but we've got nothing to show for four good drives."

Towson State, which plays three of its next four games on the road, appeared that it might complete the sweep of a three-game homestand.

Its defense held Liberty quarterback Robby Justino to 225 yards passing; he had averaged 325 yards in three previous games against the Tigers. The Flames were held scoreless over the last three quarters, and the Tigers got within two points with 2:18 left when quarterback Dan Crowley found Mark Orlando on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Towson State moved the ball throughout the game, but the Tigers didn't score until 35 seconds remained in the third quarter. Junior tailback Tony Vinson, the third-leading rusher in Division I-AA, ran 5 yards for a touchdown that completed a seven-play, 69-yard drive. He had 121 yards on 26 carries.

The Flames' 16-0 halftime lead came gift-wrapped in black and gold. Three times the Tigers committed mistakes that wasted good field position, and a special teams blunder set up Liberty's final score.

Liberty got 13 points in 13 seconds late in the first quarter. The Flames moved 44 yards on four Justino passes, with the score coming on a 10-yarder to James McKnight that made it 10-0.

The Tigers' most glaring lapse came on the ensuing kickoff, as Dan Whitehead squibbed a kick down the right sideline, where Wesley McConnell caught it in stride at the Towson State 43. Adrian Cherry made it a one-play drive by going the rest of the way as a half-dozen Tigers missed tackles on his touchdown run with 1:43 left in the first quarter.

Cherry finished with 117 yards on 22 rushes.

Towson State's next two possessions ate up yardage, but both ended with turnovers. Vinson lost a fumble at the Liberty 12 on the final play of the first quarter. The Tigers then moved from their own 18 to the Flames' 3, before Crowley was intercepted in the end zone on the 13th play of a drive that lasted more than five minutes.

Even when they did something right, the Tigers couldn't enjoy it. On the game's third play, Justino was sacked by Rob Stanavitch and fumbled, Scott Tull recovering for Towson State on the Flames' 8.

The Tigers were called for unsportsmanlike conduct, however, giving them a first-and-goal on the 23. Buddy Dunn's 22-yard field goal was wide right.

Liberty then took a 3-0 lead on a Whitehead 32-yard field goal with 5:15 left in the first quarter.

Liberty 16 0 0 0 -- 16

Towson State 0 0 7 7 -- 14

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