Smith leads Towson's triumphant chorus, 17-14 QB passes for 315 yards

defense holds off Drake

November 15, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

On a day when senior quarterback Kevin Smith played Towson University's passing game like a maestro, he earned the right to sing at his Minnegan Stadium farewell.

Smith's flawless 315-yard passing performance inspired a 17-14 nonconference victory over visiting Drake yesterday and enabled Towson's outgoing class to celebrate senior day.

"I was close to the seniors last year," Smith said after Tigers improved to 4-4. "When we fell short against Bucknell [on senior day 1997], I saw how much it hurt them.

"This meant a lot, coming off the field singing the fight song, with Dr. Smith leading us."

With apologies to Towson president Hoke Smith, there was only one leader of the Tigers' band yesterday, and it was their gritty quarterback. Operating almost exclusively in a four-wide-out, spread offense, Smith carved up the Drake secondary for 36 completions in 48 attempts and one touchdown.

The name of this tune was ball control.

"They played ball control with the passing game," said Drake coach Rob Ash. "That was impressive.

"Kevin Smith is a great quarterback. We anticipated he'd be patient and be tough to track down. You hope the guy makes a mistake, but he didn't throw one away."

When Drake took away Jason Corle's inside running game (14 carries, 31 yards), Smith threw short hitch passes to his wide receivers. He used eight receivers, but fittingly found senior wide-out Anthony Maglionico 11 times for 80 yards.

In keeping with the theme of the week, the Tigers scored on their first three possessions of the game, including a 20-play, 74-yard field-goal drive to start the game.

"We talked all week about getting out [to a faster start]," Towson coach Gordy Combs said, "and we got out."

A 22-yard field goal by Ed Franco and two touchdowns by Corle (8-yard pass, 1-yard run) produced a 17-0 second-quarter lead just a week after the Tigers dug a 27-0 first-half hole at Dayton.

Towson's big-play defense spent the rest of the game protecting that lead. Defensive end Andrew Hollingsworth led a withering pass rush with four sacks, and Jabari Garrett and Donald Wood had interceptions.

"I pride myself on being in shape and playing all four quarters," Hollingsworth said after helping smother two final desperation Drake possessions.

This was a game that started out like a Towson rout but became a grind when the Tigers failed to take advantage of several opportunities.

When officials waved off a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jamal White on a fake spike by Smith at the end of the half -- "They said it was intent to deceive," Combs said -- the Pioneer League champs from Des Moines, Iowa, got new life.

In the third quarter, offensive pass interference in the end zone ultimately resulted in a missed 35-yard field goal for the Tigers. Moments later, a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Towson's Mike Weiser allowed Drake (7-3) to extend an 80-yard touchdown drive. That cut the Towson lead to 17-14.

In the end, Towson gave Drake one last shot. On fourth-and-five from the Drake 39, Combs called for a pass out of a punt formation. But Kevyn Dodgson's short toss to Noah Read ended in a 6-yard loss. Suddenly, Drake was 16 seconds and 55 yards away from an improbable comeback.

After an incompletion, Wood smothered Drake's Robert McFadden on a 9-yard catch at the Towson 46 as time expired.

Given that reprieve, the Tigers travel to Bucknell next week looking for a win and a winning season. And for Smith, one last fight song.

#

Next for Towson

Opponent: Bucknell

Site: Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium, Lewisburg, Pa.

When: Saturday, 12: 30 p.m.

Record: 5-5

Yesterday: Lost to Lehigh, 49-7.

Pub Date: 11/15/98

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