Towson defense has hands full again vs. Lehigh


Just in case the Towson State defense did not get the message last week, Lehigh's Glenn Kempa, Rich Clark and Erik Torain are ready to make sure the Tigers recognize a good offense when they see it.

The three were instrumental in sending Lehigh past Fordham, 35-3, last week. Lehigh will come into Minnegan Stadium tomorrow night looking for a second straight victory. Towson is coming off a 40-21 loss at Rhode Island in its opener.

Clark, a flanker, had six catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns last week. Two years ago, Clark caught a 37-yard touchdown pass to beat Towson.

Junior quarterback Kempa was 22-for-40 for 313 yards passing in his first collegiate start, and Torain ran 12 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.

In a supporting role was senior John Gehrig (Westminster), who made his first start at tight end last week and finished with five receptions for 52 yards, including a longest of 14 yards.

The Brown and White have won all three meetings with Towson, but all have been close, decided in the closing minutes.

Towson strong safety Gary Hatcher has had a ringside seat for the past two Lehigh wins, a 27-22 game decided in the final 12 seconds two years ago and a 48-39 contest last year.

"Against Lehigh, we are going to have to adjust to their strengths," said Hatcher, a senior from Forestville who has played every position in the Towson secondary. "They like to work their passes in series, running the same one two or three times, then changing and running that one two or three times. Each side will try to force the other to change, and it's a matter of figuring out who changes first."

In last week's loss to Rhode Island, the Tigers gave up 26 second-quarter points and three touchdown passes for the game.

"Last week, Rhode Island didn't do anything we hadn't seen, and their pass offense did not seem that sophisticated, but we didn't play tough enough defense," Hatcher said. "I believe our defense held us back in that one. We all shared in the problems, but we needed a pass rush and containment and we didn't get either one."

Defensive coordinator Gordy Combs agreed, adding: "We were hurt when [tackle] Todd Katovsich and [linebacker] Jared Frees left the game early with injuries. It took away our stability." Frees is back, but Katovsich will be out for a couple of weeks.

Hatcher (5 feet 9, 180), a co-captain and defensive leader in his first season at strong safety, sees a big difference between his new position and free safety or cornerback.

"Strong is more a case of providing support against the run," he said. "You have to give up more of your body. The other positions provide help rather than initiate the attack. Now, I'm the force."

Towson State's defensive woes were reflected on the tackle chart where the two safeties, Hatcher and freshman Aaron Bates, had 12 each.

Hatcher also had encouraging words for Bates (Wilde Lake), seeing his first college action after a redshirt year.

"He [Bates] did a good job defending and came up well against the run," Hatcher said. "This week, though, he'll have to slow down, sit back and be patient against their passing attack."

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