Towson ends with whimper, 33-0 Bucknell hands 2-8 Tigers worst home loss in 6 years

November 16, 1997|By Mark Hoeflich | Mark Hoeflich,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

If Towson University thought it had problems before yesterday's game, then it reached a new low after a 33-0 loss to Bucknell in the final regular-season game before 2,235 at Minnegan Stadium.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Tigers received a forgettable performance from their offense, which failed to get in the end zone for the second time in four weeks and had four turnovers among just 228 total yards.

The defense rested, as Towson suffered major breakdowns in its pass coverage.

And then there were the 12 penalties for 117 yards.

All told, the Tigers (2-8, 0-6) failed to win a game in their first season in the Patriot League and suffered their worst home loss in Gordy Combs' six years as Towson coach. The Tigers ended the season on a four-game losing streak, scoring only 10 points over that span.

"We've been shut out twice over the last four weeks and it's been real difficult for us, but there's been no finger-pointing," said Combs, whose young team includes an offensive line weakened by injuries. "When you lose some continuity on the offensive line, things don't happen like they usually do on offense."

The win marked the first time Bucknell (10-0, 5-0) has been unbeaten after 10 games. The Bison will play Colgate, the only other undefeated team in the Patriot Conference, next Saturday for a chance to advance to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

Junior quarterback Kevin Smith has struggled as much as anyone on the Towson offense lately, and his indecision yesterday helped Bucknell put the game away early. The first of his three interceptions led to the Bison's first score late in the first quarter-- a 7-yard pass from Don McDowell to Jeremy Myers -- but more important were Smith's mistakes when the Tigers were twice in position to score before halftime.

Trailing 16-0 midway through the second quarter, the Tigers faced a fourth-and-goal situation at the Bison 1-yard line, but never got off a play as Smith was called for delay of game. Pushed back to the 6, Towson failed on a fake field goal.

Towson then moved the ball to Bucknell's 19 on its next possession, but Smith was intercepted in the end zone by Nate Musselman.

"We needed some success early offensively," said Combs, who suffered through his first losing season with the Tigers. "When we were at the 1, there just wasn't a sense of urgency to get off the play, and we took too long with motion in the play and time expired."

Bucknell's offense, on the other hand, had few problems. McDowell faced little pressure and completed 21 of 30 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Peer ran for 119 yards to become the fifth player in Bison history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Bucknell finished with 87 offensive plays, to Towson's 52, and had 351 total yards.

"I thought the guys really came back focused after giving up 38 points in last week's game [a four-point win over St. Mary's of California] and I thought the two critical drives were just before halftime when we kept Towson out of the end zone," said Bucknell coach Tom Gadd.

McDowell completed three passes for first downs on Bucknell's opening drive of the second half and his 15-yard run moved the Bison to the Tigers' 7, setting up a 23-yard Ross Coleman field goal.

Bucknell eliminated any suspense when Josh LaBrec picked up a punt blocked by teammate Roshahn Whitner, and raced 30 yards for a touchdown that pushed the Bison's lead to 26-0.

"At halftime we made an adjustment on our punt defense, thinking we'd get a guy free on the outside," LaBrec said. "But what ended up happening was we got someone free on the inside and I picked up the blocked punt and broke to the end zone. It was a big momentum shifter."

Bucknell .. 7 .. 9 .. 10 .. 7 .. -- .. 33

Towson .... 0 .. 0 ... 0 .. 0 .. -- ... 0

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