'94 a swan song of sorts for Tigers

September 08, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

With another season approaching, the coach talks excitedly about his team's potential and the veterans talk about reaching lofty goals and repeating recent successes. But all the talk cannot obscure the fact that a chapter is coming to a close in the 26-year history of Towson State football.

The Tigers begin the end of an era Saturday, when they play host to Buffalo with the last Towson State team that will field scholarship players.

Towson State has been de-emphasizing football since 1992, the year Gordy Combs took over the program after 19 years as an assistant, and five years after the school made the jump from Division II to I-AA. This season, the last group of scholarship players -- 17 seniors, eight of whom are on full scholarship -- take the field.

"I'm really not thinking about it too much at all. All I'm thinking about is getting to the playoffs," senior quarterback Dan Crowley said.

"With the problems of gender equity, if you have so many male scholarships, you have to have as many female scholarships," Combs said. "The scholarships we have not replenished have gone to women's sports or other [nonrevenue male] sports. I think we're happy adminis- tratively to be going in this direction."

Combs has already addressed his dwindling scholarships dilemma by revamping his schedule. The Tigers have dropped Connecticut and Delaware this year, while adding American International and Kutztown.

Next year, Towson will enter the world of nonscholarship football by moving to the ECAC Intercollegiate Football Conference, a 25-member league of Division I-AA and II schools. The Tigers will drop five 1994 opponents -- Buffalo, Delaware State, Howard, Hofstra and Morgan State -- and replace them with ECAC members Monmouth, Robert Morris, Wagner, Central Connecticut and St. Francis (Pa.).

"Going into the ECAC, we'll be trying to get into a playoff championship type of game, but it won't be like getting into a 16-team playoff [as a Division I-AA school]," Combs said.

For now, the Tigers can only strive to reach the Division I-AA playoffs for the first time, an achievement they narrowly missed last year after going 8-2, their best season as a I-AA program.

A playoff trip this fall appears to be a tall order. Begin with the loss of record-breaking running back Tony Vinson (2,016 rushing yards last year), offensive tackles Karl Nieberlein and John Loch, and key defensive players such as end Rob Stanavitch and safety Aaron Bates. Depth also is a problem.

"[Depth] is a big concern," Combs said. "One or two key injuries could become magnified in a hurry."

One key rests on the offensive line, particularly the left side, where guard Alan Brown (6 feet 2, 270 pounds) and tackle Eric Peterson (6-2, 258) anchor the unit.

They will be charged with protecting the blind side of Crowley, who aims to finish his career as Towson State's top quarterback. Last year Crowley threw for 23 touchdowns and was intercepted only four times, piling up 1,882 yards and completing 57.2 percent of his passes.

Crowley, who has thrown for more touchdowns than any other Tigers quarterback, needs 1,896 yards to break Chris Goetz's career passing yardage record of 7,882. He should get a chance to break it, since the Tigers plan to resume their to-the-air approach on offense -- unlike the last two years, when they used Vinson to pound defenses.

"It's going to be fun, and fun to watch," Crowley said. "I'll be out of the pocket a lot this year, throwing the ball on the run more, improvising more. As long as the offensive line stays healthy, I'll get it done."

Especially with teammates like Brian McCarty and Mark Orlando to help him. McCarty, who got off to a terrific start last year before a separated shoulder ended his season in the fourth week, should end up at least second on the school's all-time rushing list. Orlando had 44 catches, 821 yards and eight touchdowns last year and needs 39 catches to break Kevin Howard's career mark of 161.

Offensive records by all three of those guys may be wasted, though, if the defense does not produce.

Seniors Scott Tull (6-4, 233) and Dan Nate (6-0, 226) have been moved from linebacker to end and nose tackle, respectively, to LTC anchor the 3-4 alignment. Inside linebackers Mike Arbutina (5-11, 202) and Marco Calise (6-1, 221) return to start, and the backfield, led by seniors Marcellus Campbell and Donnie Zimmerman, needs to take away the big play consistently.

Tomorrow: Division III.


Coach: Gordy Combs (two years, 13-7)

Last year: 8-2

Conference: Independent

Radio: WITH (1230 AM), WCVT (89.7 FM)

Stadium: Minnegan (5,000)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: 3-4

Top returning players: QB Dan Crowley, RB Brian McCarty, FB John Swigart, WR Mark Orlando, LT Eric Peterson, LG Alan Brown, LB Mike Arbutina, LB Marco Calise, CB Marcellus Campbell, S Donnie Zimmerman, DE Scott Tull, NT Dan Nate.

Top newcomers: K George Perikakis, P Chris Karabinus.

Strengths: Solid skill position players like McCarty, Crowley, Orlando, and a speedy defensive secondary.

Weaknesses: A small, inexperienced defensive line.

Strongest opponent: Howard

Key game: Buffalo

Prediction: If the offensive line and the key seniors stay healthy, the Tigers could win seven games.


Date ...... Opponent ........ Time

Sept. 10 ..... Buffalo ........... 1

Sept. 17 ... at Delaware State ... 2

Sept. 24 ... at Charleston So. ... 1:30

Oct. 1 ....... at Howard U. ...... 1

Oct. 8 ....... at Bucknell ....... 1

Oct. 22 .... American Int. (H) ... 1

Oct. 29 ...... at Hofstra ........ 7:30

Nov. 5 ........ Kutztown ......... 1

Nov. 12 ..... at Southern Conn. .. 1

Nov. 19 ...... Morgan State ...... 1

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