Vinson, Tigers state their case

November 21, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

In what may have been Towson State's last chance to showcase the best team in its 25-year history, the Tigers turned their most formidable weapon loose yesterday with devastating results at Morgan State.

Senior running back Tony Vinson, putting the finishing touch on an incredible season, set an NCAA Division I-AA single-season rushing record by gaining 327 yards on 32 carries and scoring a school-record five touchdowns to carry Towson State to a 56-12 rout before 2,014 at Hughes Stadium.

Towson State finished the regular season with an 8-2 record, its best since 1986, when the Tigers advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in their last year as a Division II program. Today, when the NCAA announces 16 teams for the I-AA playoffs, the 25th-ranked Tigers will be waiting anxiously for an invitation.

"Right now, what's going through my mind is I hope we make the playoffs," said Vinson, who wound up with 2,017 yards, shattering the 10-year-old record by Colgate's Rich Erenberg (1,883 yards).

"All of the records are great, but the best thing has been having a great year with such a good bunch of guys, and seeing the smiles we've brought back to the football program at Towson State."

Vinson and the Tigers made an emphatic statement yesterday in the first meeting between the schools since 1987.

Behind a dominating offensive line, Vinson almost single-handedly destroyed Morgan State's young defense, which started five freshmen and entered the game giving up 507 yards and 44 points a game. The Bears (2-9), who finished with a seven-game losing streak, nearly surrendered that much in the first half.

Vinson rushed 26 times for 272 yards and five touchdowns in the first half, as the Tigers rolled to a 42-0 lead by scoring on their first six possessions.

By halftime, Towson State had amassed 21 first downs and 403 of its 576 total yards, while the Tigers' defense held the Bears to nine first downs and 111 yards.

The Tigers piled up 314 yards rushing during the opening 30 minutes, en route to a school-record 457. Vinson set the national and school records on the same play -- a 51-yard touchdown run with 4:58 left in the half that gave the Tigers a 42-0 lead.

Vinson finished the season with 24 touchdowns and a nation-leading 201.7 yards a game. He also wound up his two-year stint at Towson State -- which consisted of barely more than 17 games -- with 3,058 yards. Combined with last week's record-breaking 364-yard performance against Bucknell, Vinson rushed 65 times for 691 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games.

"He [Vinson] is going to do it at the next level," said Towson State coach Gordy Combs, who removed Vinson and numerous other starters midway through the third quarter.

"We wanted to come in and control the game right from the get-go, and not give them [Morgan State] any reason for inspiration. And it was a double jeopardy kind of thing. We wanted to get on them early and impress the playoff committee, but we also needed to keep our starters healthy in case we make the playoffs."

The Tigers began yesterday by winning the toss and electing to kick off with a gusty wind, a strategy that paid off. The Bears' first three possessions ended with short punts that died in the wind.

Meanwhile, Towson State beat quick paths to the end zone. Their first drive, a nine-play, 69-yard march, ended with a 3-yard run by Vinson.

Following a 16-yard punt by Morgan State's Arthur Triggs, the Tigers took over on the Bears' 40. They needed only five plays to score on a 6-yard pass from Dan Crowley (8-for-11, 112 yards, two TDs) to Mark Orlando. Crowley passed to Tony Hill for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 3:41 left in the quarter.

The rest of the half belonged to Vinson, who scored on runs of 3, 12, 7 and 51 to give the Tigers a 42-0 lead.

Down 56-0 after three quarters, Morgan State running back Tony Phillips scored two touchdowns to set a school record with 15 in one season. And wide receiver Jesse Humphrey caught six passes for 99 yards, giving him his second 1,000-yard season.

"They [Towson State] were probably the most balanced team we faced all year," said Morgan State coach Ricky Diggs, who is 5-28 in his three seasons. "If you focus on Vinson too much, Crowley does a heckuva job throwing the football. We had to find a happy medium somewhere, and we couldn't do it today."

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