Towson falls to Dayton, 24-17 Combs vows comeback

September 29, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Towson State coach Gordy Combs is so confident that his team will reverse its early-season slide that he made a bold prediction after yesterday's 24-17 loss to Dayton at Minnegan Stadium.

As he stood to leave a post-game news conference, Combs guaranteed a win next weekend at home against Central Connecticut State. He even rebuffed a chance to take back those words.

Though Central Connecticut has problems, Combs still was climbing out on a thin limb. The Tigers are young, with just four senior starters, and prone to make mistakes. They may be without senior receiver Shawn Ward, who left yesterday's game with a knee injury, but a 1-3 start -- and the first three-game losing streak since 1992 -- hasn't altered Combs' perception of his squad.

"There's no doubt in my mind we can win a lot of games with this team," he said.

The Tigers will need to run the ball better.

Dayton's backfield was missing junior tailback Ryan Sollmann and junior fullback Chad Muterspaw because of injuries, but the Flyers out-rushed Towson, 232-58. Junior Mike Stylski, making his first start, gained 99 yards on 21 carries, and sophomore fullback Jacob Jones added 75 yards.

Towson's leading rusher, senior Maurice Sydnor, had 53 yards. Freshman Jason Corle carried 10 times, equaling his total coming into the game, for only 13 yards.

Without much help from the the ground game, sophomore quarterback Kevin Smith completed 26 of a career-high 49 attempts for 336 yards. His only touchdown came with 30 seconds left, a 22-yard pass to freshman Eric Beach.

Towson battled from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score at halftime, but Dayton (4-0) moved ahead for good with 8: 18 left in the third quarter, just as the Tigers seemed ready to take the lead.

Dayton's Chucky Dauberman blocked a 34-yard field-goal attempt by Towson's George Perdikakis. Eric Belcher scooped up the ball along the sideline and raced 66 yards for the touchdown.

"That turns the whole momentum of the game," said Combs, whose team made a better showing than last year's 38-0 loss at Dayton.

Stylski padded the lead when he broke a tackle and ran 7 yards for a touchdown.

Towson's first drive was like so many others this season -- lots of yardage, but no points.

The Tigers marched from their 20 to Dayton's 33, but were called for delay of game on second-and-one. Pushed back 5 yards, they wanted to run Corle up the middle, but Smith fumbled the exchange and Dayton's Bill Schmidt recovered. The Flyers then drove to Towson's 16 before settling for a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Hulme.

On Towson's next possession, a one-handed grab of a tipped ball over the middle by Amadi Eze highlighted an 11-play drive that fizzled on Dayton's 25 when Smith bounced a fourth-down pass. Again, the Flyers made Towson pay, this time with a 27-yard scoring pass to Stylski.

"We're moving the football, but we continue to hamper ourselves by doing bad things," Combs said, "And it's not the same person all the time."

Sophomore Kevyn Dodson (Arundel) scored Towson's first touchdown in eight quarters when he bulled in from the 1 with 3: 06 remaining before halftime, and Perdikakis kicked a 34-yard field goal after a Dwane Exeter interception. But those positive moments were overshadowed by gaffes that hurt the Tigers.

Twice in the first quarter, Smith had to call a timeout because the 25-second clock was expiring. The tackling was atrocious at other times. Too many passes were dropped and too many penalties were committed.

"It's not from a lack of effort from our football team," Combs said. "We practice hard, we're just a young group of guys. And we'll get through this."

Next for Towson

Opponent: Central Connecticut State

Record: 1-3

Site: Minnegan Stadium

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Yesterday: Lost to Robert Morris, 35-13

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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