Towson concludes on winning note Routs Southern Conn. to finish season at 6-4

November 12, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Towson State clinched its third straight winning record under coach Gordy Combs, and the reviews for this season lean more toward the positive.

There were some grand moments, like yesterday's 38-7 victory over Southern Connecticut before 807 at Minnegan Stadium. It was the last game for seven seniors, and it was a rousing success.

If only there could have been more of those. The Tigers (6-4) were flat in a couple of games and paid the price. And they hurt themselves with the kind of mistakes that usually beset a young team, one with the smallest senior class ever at Towson.

Then, there was the good. Freshman Kevin Smith took over at quarterback Sept. 23 and made steady improvement, twice being named the Eastern College Athletic Conference's Rookie of the Week. The defense, with five sophomores and a freshman among the starters yesterday, turned in some inspired performances, maintaining its composure and forcing crucial turnovers during crunch time. And though he didn't dominate every game, as many people expected, Maryland transfer Larry Washington eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and earned raves from his coach.

How does the season sit with Combs? "It's been a success," he said without hesitation, "especially considering we had 18 new starters. When you have a young team, you have a lot of peaks and valleys."

Washington tried playing his way into shape after a nearly two-year layoff, but never quite got there. Still, despite a late-season knee sprain and defenses geared toward stopping him, he conjured up images of his dominant high school days at Randallstown.

He was named the conference's Player of the Week after gaining 179 yards and scoring three times in the opener against Butler, and again in late September after churning out 292 yards against Monmouth. In nine games, he rushed for 1,101 yards, including 205 yesterday, and 12 touchdowns despite sometimes lacking the burst of speed needed to turn the corner.

Southern Connecticut (7-3) was no match for Washington, who ran over and around its tacklers, and even hurdled a few. "It's great to see him have his final collegiate game like this," Combs said.

Said Washington: "It feels real good. I'm glad we got the win and I stayed healthy. As a running back, you set out to get 1,000 yards. I had a couple off-games that were really disappointing, but I think the year's been a success."

A strong wind and some heavy rain didn't bother the Tigers yesterday. They scored on their first three possessions, beginning with a 40-yard field goal by sophomore George Perdikakis, and limited Southern Connecticut to 80 yards on the ground. And they kept the Owls' defense guessing by mixing the run and pass, and rotating Washington and the quicker Maurice Sydnor (six carries, 46 yards) at tailback.

Southern Connecticut took a 7-3 lead on a 28-yard pass from senior Rob Burns to 6-foot-4 junior Phil Plummer. Burns had completed a 44-yarder to Chris Ortiz, a 6-3 junior, two plays earlier. The cornerback who was covering both receivers, junior Brad Friedman, is 5-9.

Burns, a 6-6 senior making his third start this year, connected with Ortiz for 31 yards on the last play of the first quarter, but nothing else went right for the Owls.

Towson moved ahead on a 5-yard reception by Shawn Ward, and Washington scored on runs of 9, 36 and 3 yards. His second touchdown was aided by a nice downfield block by Ward, and the third finished a 90-yard drive.

Friedman returned a third-quarter interception 51 yards, setting up a 1-yard burst by senior Paul Hall.

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