Towson grounds out 31-14 win RB duo gains 308 as Tigers go to 2-0

September 19, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

For three quarters yesterday at Minnegan Stadium, Towson State and Delaware State engaged in a see-saw battle of impressive offense and unimpressive mistakes. For the Tigers, the penalty was the miscue of choice. For Delaware State, it was the turnover.

But once Towson State linebacker Mike Arbutina stopped the Hornets on a fourth-down play late in the third quarter, the Tigers restored order to their promising season. After Arbutina's heroics, the Tigers' offense reawakened, as quarterback Dan Crowley passed to John Swigart for a 23-yard touchdown to turn a 17-14 lead into a 24-14 cushion.

That propelled Towson State to a deceptively tough, 31-14 victory that gave the Tigers their first victory over Delaware State in four years and their first 2-0 start since 1986.

"We were tested. When you play a team of the caliber of Delaware State, you're going to have a lot of peaks and valleys," Towson State coach Gordy Combs said. "It's how you react to the valleys that gets you to the peaks."

The Tigers had their share of peaks, beginning with the dynamic backfield tandem of Tony Vinson and Brian McCarty. They combined for a Towson State record as the first pair of running backs to gain more than 100 yards in the same game.

McCarty got Towson State rolling with a 45-yard, first-quarter touchdown run and 102 yards rushing in the first half, before finishing with a game-high 159 yards and two touch downs on just 15 carries.

Vinson was right behind him, with 149 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Together, they accounted for 308 of Towson State's 322 rushing yards, and nearly 75 percent of the Tigers' offensive output.

Then there was free safety Aaron Bates, who forced a fumble in the first half and intercepted two passes in the second half to hold the Hornets at bay. And finally, there was Arbutina, who missed last week's opener with a leg injury and returned with a vengeance to make 12 tackles, including nine unassisted.

Arbutina saved his biggest play for crunch time. As the third quarter wound down, Towson State's offense was stumbling over penalty flags -- the Tigers were penalized 10 times for 86 yards -- and Delaware State's Wing-T offense was in high gear.

The Hornets had closed to 17-14 on a 13-yard run by Phil Anderson (nine carries, 71 yards) five minutes earlier, and after forcing the Tigers to punt, Delaware State was driving toward the go-ahead score at midfield.

But on fourth-and-inches, Arbutina burst through the line to meet Bert Watson (17 carries, 76 yards) and dropped him for a 1-yard loss.

"We were in a goal-line defense, and I picked a gap to shoot. I just made sure to keep my head up and hold on to him [Watson]. Their backs are tough," Arbutina said.

Momentum shifted dramatically after that, as the reinvigorated Tigers needed only five plays to cover 50 yards. The last play demoralized Delaware State. Crowley burned the blitzing Hornets with a swing pass to Swigart, who ran down the left sideline untouched for the score eight seconds into the fourth quarter.

McCarty then finished his afternoon the way he started it. Trading punishing runs with Vinson over the game-clinching, 61-yard drive, McCarty powered through several defenders before diving into the end zone to complete a 20-yard run and conclude the scoring with 4:07 left.

"I keep telling everybody about Brian, but nobody listens to me," said Vinson. "We've said we want to be the best two-back combination in the country, and if people don't start respecting Brian's ability more, we might end up doing it."

"Defenses see Tony going out and they relax," Combs added. "They don't see that we have two quality backs. It's nice to have the weapons when you need them."

Not that Delaware State lacks weaponry. Were it not for six turnovers, the Hornets might have been smiling yesterday. They recorded 371 yards, including 254 on the ground. Their defense, led by linebacker Lloyd Badson (11 tackles), forced five Towson State punts and shut down the Tigers for the entire third quarter. At several points, the game seemingly belonged to them.

Had Delaware State not lost two fumbles in its first four possessions, the Hornets might have taken command in the first half.

Towson State quickly put the Hornets in a hole, driving 66 yards on its first seven plays. Vinson touched the ball on the first five plays, moving the Tigers 22 yards to the Delaware State 43. After Vinson was tackled for a 2-yard loss, McCarty made his first carry count by breaking off right tackle for a 45-yard touchdown. Three minutes into the contest, the Tigers led 7-0.

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