Combs is proving to be quite a miracle worker at Towson State

The Inside Stuff

November 16, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Towson State's Gordy Combs deserves serious consideration as Coach of the Year.

The first-year coach of the Tigers won't win it, not with four losses and one more game to play (at Delaware). But if the voters all over the country understood the situation Combs walked into this year, he might.

Combs has led Towson to five victories, the latest one the miracle finish, 33-32 win over Northeastern Saturday. That's five more wins than a lot of people thought Towson would have this year. The team won only one game last year.

Combs spoke at the monthly sports luncheon at J. Patrick's two days before the Northeastern game and explained Towson's football predicament to 125 fans.

"The school was talking about dropping football," Combs said. "They were taking away our scholarships. And we were losing."

Of the Northeastern team that would be coming to play next at Minnegan Stadium (Northeastern beat Towson a year ago, 50-13), Combs said, "They're improved over last year."

Towson has been surprising people all year. After the Tigers beat James Madison, 28-21, Oct. 24, I told Combs I was surprised he had been able to win three games.

"We might win some more, too," he said with a sly little smile.

He was right. His team recovered two onside kicks in the final two minutes at Indiana of Pennsylvania and won, 35-33.

Two days ago, Towson won on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dan Crowley to Mark Orlando that went off after time had expired. Northeastern players ran on the field prematurely to celebrate what they thought was a victory, only to be hit with a 15-yard penalty that gave Towson one additional play, since a game cannot end on a penalty against the defense.

"We always say, 'Keep coaching; keep playing,' " says Combs. Clearly his staff and players are taking the advice.

Northeastern needs to learn that it ain't over til it's over -- and even then, sometimes it ain't over.

There's no question that the addition of Purdue transfer Tony Vinson this year made a big difference at Towson.

But a knee injury ended the ace running back's season in the first half at Indiana. Vinson wasn't available for the game-winning rally at IUP or for the Northeastern game. His replacement, Brian McCarty, was sensational with 37 carries for 245 yards and three touchdowns against Northeastern. By now it should be apparent to all that Towson has a good offensive line.

Towson's season ends Saturday at Delaware. The Blue Hens lost over the weekend at Richmond, 29-21. Still, Delaware is 8-2 and has won the Yankee Conference championship with a 7-1 league record.

"I inherited this schedule," says Combs, who was an assistant under Phil Albert for 19 years at Towson before taking over the head coaching job.

* Question: Has Northeastern University ever produced a great football player? Answer: One -- Century Sid Watson, who finished there in 1953. Listen to the story as told by associate athletic director Jack Grinold, who has been at the Boston

school for more than 30 years.

"Watson was called Century Sid because he always ran for 100 yards a game," says Grinold. "His claim to fame is that he went on to the Pittsburgh Steelers and they had to cut one more player when the season started. It was either going to be Century Sid or John Unitas.

"The Steelers cut Unitas, and, as we all know, he went on to the Hall of Fame. Sid Watson lasted one season in the pros."

And what became of Century Sid? Says Grinold, "He's the athletic director at Bowdoin College in Maine and has been for many years."

* Don't fall apart because the Orioles are likely to lose some players in tomorrow's draft by the new Florida and Colorado teams. Everyone will survive. Pat Gillick, general manager of the world champion Blue Jays, says this about how the draft is likely to affect his team and ours:

"We're both going to be hurt in the first round. In the second round, we'll lose a player who's going to give service."

The prediction here is that the Orioles will lose Bob Milacki and Joe Orsulak. No National League team will want Glenn Davis and his $3.5 million salary. If Davis plays in the field, he gets hurt, so he has to be a DH at this stage of his career -- and there's no DH in the NL.

* Coach Dick MacPherson had only three words for his New England Patriots when he came out of intestinal surgery Friday: "Beat the Colts!"

And beat the Colts they did yesterday, 37-34 in overtime, the first win of the season for the Pats. That'll be good medicine for MacPherson, 62, his players and for long-suffering New England pro football fans.

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