27-7 defeat sends Towson skidding to 3-3 Lafayette contains Corle, rest of Tigers offense

October 11, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Improvement was the keyword for the Towson football team at the end of last month, with encouraging performances in consecutive weeks against Colgate and Fordham.

But the kindness of September disappeared, and on October's second Saturday, the Tigers offered a disillusioning effort in a 27-7 loss to Lafayette in front of 3,468 at Minnegan Stadium.

Coach Gordy Combs' team was sitting pretty with a 3-1 record two weeks ago. With this loss after a 31-24 loss to Holy Cross on Oct. 3, Towson is 3-3, 1-3 in the Patriot League.

"As far as I'm concerned, you're mediocre when you're 3-3," Combs said. "It's very disappointing."

Here's the damage of a muddy game that played more like 7-3 than 27-7: Though out-gained by 26 yards in total offense, Towson gave up 113 yards on nine penalties, some of which led to nine punts. Few, if any of those punts by Mike Walck went very far, averaging 34.1 yards.

This led to good field position for the Leopards (1-4, 1-0), as the ball left the Towson end of the field once, when Kevin Smith threw his fourth interception of the day to linebacker Ryan Tuma at the Lafayette 44.

Of course, Lafayette had excellent field position on its second possession, thanks to a fumble by Jason Corle on Towson's third offensive play of the game. Tuma recovered, and six plays later, Eric McDay dove in from the 1-yard line to take a 7-0 lead with 9: 05 left in the first quarter.

For the second week in a row, Corle was kept in check, gaining 95 yards on 26 carries -- 15 of the yards coming after the outcome was not in question. But it was his 15-yard run, with 6: 48 to go in the first half, that brought Towson even at 7-7.

Lafayette was in no mood for close games, however, having lost three straight by a combined seven points, including a 13-10 overtime loss at Dartmouth last week.

"You lose three games like that and it demoralizes you," Leopards coach Bill Russo said. "You question that you're doing the right things."

So Lafayette quarterback Mike Palos, who entered the game with his starting job in jeopardy and had missed his first seven pass attempts, suddenly caught fire after Corle's touchdown run.

Palos completed all four of his passes on a 65-yard touchdown drive, including a 28-yarder to receiver Joe Luke that set up Ryan Mayo's 4-yard touchdown with 2: 03 left in the half.

In the second half, Towson's offense continued to struggle. Smith, was 11-for-19 in the first half, completed only one of seven passes to begin the second half, as the Tigers gained 22 yards on four drives originating in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the Leopards increased their lead to 20-7 when Leonard Moore (24 carries, 119 yards) ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 0: 25 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth, Towson floundered with the chance to re-enter the game, hampered by penalties.

In particular, Corle ran for nine yards on a third-and-one play midway through the fourth quarter, with a win still possible. Instead, a holding penalty negated the run, creating a third-and-13 that was not converted, leading to another punt.

This sort of play was what killed Lafayette during its four-game skid, which is why Combs was convinced that the 0-4 record was misleading.

"They did a lot of things to kill themselves just like we did a lot of things to kill ourselves today," Combs said. "Those types of things kill you."

Towson let three more drives die after that. By the time Moore rushed 35 yards in two plays -- including a 20-yard touchdown with 3: 50 left that erased all doubt -- the struggling team whose bus was delayed by the homecoming parade was talking about its chances of contending in the Patriot League.

"We have the Patriot League schedule as a worthwhile goal for us," Russo said. "We were approaching it as we hadn't got a win, we need to get a win and we see that this is what we have to do. Now, we're approaching [games] from more of a positive result."

Next for Towson

Opponent: Lehigh

Site: Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, Pa.

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Record: 5-0

Yesterday: Beat Columbia, 20-19.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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