Towson overcomes turnovers, Morgan State, 29-26

Field goal at :01 caps rally from 13-point hole despite 4 interceptions, 3 fumbles

September 02, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

On a night when Towson University's football team made a long list of mistakes, sophomore kicker Ron Halbruner chipped in with two blown extra points. But, with the season opener on the line against visiting, cross-town rival Morgan State last night at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Halbruner came up big.

With one second left before a crowd of 6,527, Halbruner kicked a 29-yard field goal to lift Towson to a dramatic, come-from-behind, 29-26 victory.

After the Tigers had committed seven turnovers and nine penalties and saw a punt blocked, Halbruner endured three called timeouts by the Bears before finishing off Morgan State, which gave up 16 unanswered points after taking a 26-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

"I actually wasn't too nervous. I knew I had to make up for the two extra points I missed," Halbruner said. "[The Bears] were talking a lot of crap out there. I just kept my composure. I knew I had to hit it and make up for everything. I felt like it went off my foot perfect."

The Tigers countered their imperfection with resilience. Second-year freshman quarterback Sean Schaefer, making the first start of his career, lost two fumbles and threw four interceptions, including one that was tipped at the line and one that went through the hands of a receiver. But Schaefer, who got a boost from sophomore Nick Williams (19 carries, 141 yards rushing, one touchdown), stepped up in the clutch. Schaefer moved the Tigers consistently in the second half, en route to a 344-yard passing game, which included two touchdowns. The Tigers had 16 first downs and 312 yards of offense after halftime.

Schaefer completed a 55-yard drive in the third quarter with a 6-yard scoring run to close Morgan's lead to 26-19 with 3:59 left in the quarter. Then, early in the fourth quarter, Schaefer finished a 46-yard march by connecting with sophomore receiver Paul Perry on a 24-yard, alley-oop score. Halbruner kicked the extra point to tie the score at 26-26 with 11:52 left in the game.

The Towson defense did its job down the stretch behind sophomore linebacker Brian Bradford (13 tackles, two sacks) and held the Bears to six points in the second half. Then, Schaefer got the final possession going with 2:11 left and moved the Tigers 42 yards to the Morgan 12, before Halbruner made the winning kick.

"If a quarterback gets frustrated, it reflects on your teammates," Schaefer said. "I just try to smile and laugh and shake it off."

"Every team has its own personality. When things go bad, you don't how your team is going to react. I think our leadership showed today," Towson coach Gordy Combs said. "We preached all during the preseason that we didn't want to beat ourselves. It felt like for two and a half quarters, that's what we were doing."

For Morgan State, which lost for the 13th time in 18 tries against Towson, it was a painful loss. The Bears smothered Schaefer early with pressure, and, other than giving up a 69-yard run to Williams, played a fine first half on defense. But they couldn't sustain it.

Offensively, sophomore quarterback Byron Selby (16-for-31, 151 yards, one TD) had Morgan State going early, but the Bears generated only four first downs in the second half. Junior running back Craig Nelson (76 yards) scored two first-half touchdowns to stake the Bears to a 20-13 halftime advantage and led Morgan State to a 113-yard rushing night, but the Bears ran out of gas.

"Anytime you get seven turnovers, you're supposed to win," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "But we'll take our loss, go back across the road and put together the pieces."

Morgan State 7 13 6 0-26

Towson 7 6 6 10-29

First quarter MSU-Nelson 3 run (Keever kick), 5:59. Tow-Brown 11 pass from Schaefer (Halbruner kick), 1:06. Second quarter Tow-Williams 69 run (kick failed), 13:06. MSU-Nelson 10 run (Keever kick), 3:41. MSU-Dickins 7 pass from Selby (run failed), :08 Third quarter MSU-Jackson 14 run (kick failed), 7:34. Tow-Schaefer 6 run (kick blocked), 3:59. Fourth quarter Tow-Perry 24 pass from Schaefer (Halbruner kick), 11:52. Tow-FG Halbruner 29, :01. A-6,527.

Morgan Towson

First downs 13 22

Rushes-yards 42-113 33-112

Passing 151 344

Comp-Att-Int 16-31-1 26-41-4

Return Yards 118 93

Punts-Avg. 9-33.2 4-28.8

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 4-3

Penalties-Yards 5-50 9-76

Time of Possession 31:39 28:08 Rushing-Morgan State, Nelson 20-76, Jackson 13-39, Johnson 1-4, Selby 8-(minus 6). Towson, Williams 19-141, McClaude 7-8, Brown 1-(minus 11), Schaefer 6-(minus 26). Passing-Morgan State, Selby 16-31-151-1. Towson, Schaefer 26-41-344-4. Receiving-Morgan State, Wolfe 3-29, Dickens 3-18, Jackson 3-16, Napper 3-10, Wilson 2-33, Cash 1-41, Nelson 1-4. Towson, Brown 6-88, Arnold 6-71, Yancey 5-62, Lee 5-47, Perry 1-24, Alexander 1-24, Harrison 1-20, Williams 1-8.

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