Smith rallies Towson past Monmouth, 22-21 QB passes for 303 yards, digs Tigers out of 21-0 hole

September 07, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Kevin Smith rolled an ankle, took a helmet in the shoulder and limped on and off the field most of the afternoon.

But Towson University's junior quarterback kept coming back for more punishment and more clutch pass completions, leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 22-21 victory over Monmouth University in the season opener for both teams yesterday at Minnegan Stadium.

The left-handed Smith completed 27 of 47 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown to rally Towson from a three-touchdown deficit. George Perdikakis' 35-yard field goal with 2: 47 left won it for the Tigers, who play their first Patriot League game next week.

Monmouth, which lost 14 starters from a team Towson defeated 15-6 last season, stunned the Tigers by bolting to a 21-0 lead with 5: 12 left in the second quarter of the non-league game.

"We came out and expected to make a good showing today," said Towson's Smith. "And then everything seemed to go wrong, making me wonder what was happening to us. But our coaches kept saying we had plenty of time left and the players stuck together. If this had happened last year, we would have probably packed it in."

Smith was 4-for-5 for 35 yards on the game-deciding 45-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that set up Perdikakis' heroics. The fifth-year senior was raised off the ground by his jubilant teammates after the winning kick.

But the Tigers, who finished with 30 first downs to 19 for Monmouth and out-gained the Hawks 489-367, still had to sweat out a last-ditch 33-yard drive by Monmouth, which stalled at the Towson 38 with four seconds left in the game.

Monmouth's final hope was snuffed out when Towson strong safety Dwane Exeter knocked down Monmouth quarterback Dan Sabella's fourth-down pass.

Sabella burned the veteran Towson defense for 189 yards and two touchdowns, completing 27 of 41 passes, but it was two Towson fumbles in the first 17: 15 that gave Monmouth the early momentum.

"I don't want to take anything away from Monmouth but it was evident we were looking ahead to Holy Cross next week since that is our first Patriot League game," said Towson coach Gordy Combs. "They have been picked near the bottom of the league with us and that game means an awful lot to us. Also, our defense didn't play with much emotion, but we didn't panic."

Combs denied that he gave any rousing halftime speech to his players with the Tigers down 21-6.

"Six years ago, I might have gone into a rage," said Combs, now in his sixth year as head coach.

The team's performance in the first half could have been enough to make Combs revert to his more youthful ways.

Towson drove 50 yards to the Monmouth 20 on the opening series but Adam Overbey's fumble at the 20 after a 16-yard reception from Smith ended that drive.

Monmouth answered with two touchdowns in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead, including a 3-yard run by Anthony Galella for a score off a fake field-goal attempt.

Then the Tigers marched 64 yards to the Monmouth 4-yard line early in the second quarter, only to have Kevyn Dodson fumble.

Dodson came back to redeem himself in the third quarter, running 1 and 2 yards for touchdowns to reduce Monmouth's lead to 21-19.

Next for Towson

Opponent: Holy Cross

Site: Minnegan Stadium

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Record: None

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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