The Towson-Morgan State season opener had been a hotly contested game of late, with three of the four previous meetings decided by three points. The 2006 renewal was an exception last night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Bears offered little opposition to the improving Tigers, who roared to a 30-point lead behind the passing of Sean Schaefer and a stingy defense to score a 30-2 rout before 4,484 chilled fans.
The victory was the ninth straight against nonleague opposition for Towson, which has not lost outside its conference since the fourth game of 2003 at Yale.
Schaefer completed 13 of 22 passes for 261 yards before departing the game for backup Andrew Goldbeck shortly after the fourth quarter began. Schaefer, who missed some practice time after turning an ankle, recorded one touchdown pass and ran for two more scores as the Tigers dominated a rival that they required a last-second field goal to beat last season.
Any thoughts of a Morgan State comeback were quickly dispelled when Towson scored on its first possession of the second half after receiving a 68-yard kickoff return by Jimmy McClam to the Bears' 30-yard line. The end zone was penetrated four plays later when Schaefer walked in untouched from the 1.
While Morgan continued to sputter offensively, the Tigers marched 56 yards to get another touchdown two series later. Two Schaefer completions gobbled up 47 yards before he took off around the right side for a 7-yard touchdown.
"The big thing is we didn't turn the ball over," Towson coach Gordy Combs said, mindful of the seven giveaways in last season's game. "That was huge for us. Except for a couple of plays, we played well on offense. We overcame our three losses [running back Nick Williams, tight end Ryan Collins, and wide receiver Andre Brown did not play because of injuries]."
Morgan, trying to bounce back from a 2-9 record, averted a shutout when Anthony Young trapped Schaefer for a safety with a mere 13 seconds elapsed in the final period. The Bears' offense never reached the red zone and went 2-for-14 on third- and fourth-down conversions as Towson recorded its 10th home victory in 12 meetings with Morgan.
"It was a rough, heartfelt loss," Bears coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "We can't get a rhythm going. We run a reverse pass play and have two guys in motion. Boom, the momentum shuts down. It all goes to the fact we didn't execute."
Towson defensive end Marcus Edwards had two sacks among nine tackles and a fumble recovery and said, "You're always motivated to get a goose egg in that first game to set the tone for the rest of the season."
He said the key was to contain Morgan quarterback Byron Selby, a two-way offensive threat. "You just want to keep him inside that pocket as much as you can," Edwards said. "They rely on Selby to make plays and we stopped him a good amount of the time."
Morgan penetrated no closer than the Tigers' 41-yard line in the first half and fell behind 17-0 at the break.
The Bears were hampered by lost fumbles on two of their final three possessions and could have been behind by even more, but Towson missed one field-goal attempt and decided to settle for three points on an 18-yard kick by Ron Halbruner on fourth-and-goal from the Morgan 1 just before halftime.
Meanwhile, Schaefer received generally solid protection from his offensive line and passed for 193 yards and a touchdown, despite an interception on his first series.
On a five-play, 60-yard drive, the Tigers broke a scoreless tie on a 26-yard throw from Schaefer to Eric Yancey after a miscommunication in the Morgan secondary. Halbruner kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter.
After Morgan punted, Towson required less than 2 1/2 minutes to travel 77 yards for a second touchdown. Starting running back Rasheed McClaude took a screen pass 39 yards to the Bears' 2-yard line and then Kerry Miles barreled over the goal line. It was 14-0 with 12:14 to go before the half.
Tiger John Webb recovered Craig Nelson's fumble to set up the field goal drive from the Towson 37-yard line. The same screen to McClaude produced 62 yards - again to the Bears' 2-yard line - before the defense got stubborn and the Tigers took the field goal.
Morgan's offense converted just one of six third and fourth-down tries and the Bears left the field in a deep hole.
Morgan State 0 0 0 2 - 2
Towson 7 10 13 0 - 30
T-Yancey 26 pass from Schaefer (Halbruner kick), 3:03. Second quarter
T-Miles 2 run (Halbruner kick), 12:14. T-FG Halbruner 18, :50. Third quarter
T-Schaefer 1 run (kick failed), 12:58. T-Schaefer 7 run (Bencivengo kick), 2:37. Fourth quarter
M-Young safety, 14:47. Att.-4,484.
First downs 13 14
Rushes-yards 36-173 32-84
Passing 75 289
Comp-Att-Int 14-24-0 14-26-2
Return Yards 36 4
Punts-Avg. 6-35.2 4-37.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-51 9-77
Time of Possession 31:10 28:50
Rushing-Morgan State, Simpson 7-57, Selby 13-56, Nelson 15-44, James 1-16. Towson, Miles 9-27, McClaude 11-26, Muhammad 5-24, Perry 2-7, Schaefer 5-0. Passing-Morgan State, Selby 14-24-0-75. Towson, Schaefer 13-22-1-262, Goldbeck 1-4-1-27. Receiving-Morgan State, J.Wilson 4-24, Simpson 3-5, McKenzie 2-19, Wolfe 1-11, Nelson 1-9, T.White 1-8, James 1-0, Custis 1-(minus 1). Towson, Harrison 3-59, Yancey 3-45, Arnold 3-39, McClaude 2-101, M.Lee 2-42, Perry 1-3.