The head coach and the look are new, and so was the outcome, as Towson State scored the last two touchdowns and posted a 24-21 victory over Bucknell last night before 2,125 at Minnegan Stadium.
First-year head coach Gordy Combs' debut at home also produced his first win. He had his players decked out in black pants and shirts, but what was inside mattered the most, as the Towson State (1-1) comeback broke a six-game losing streak at home and gave the Tigers a .500 record for the first time in four years and a head start on improving last year's 1-10 mark.
"That's everything we've been teaching these guys over the last six months," said Combs, who replaced Phil Albert last February. "Have some heart, never quit. They didn't."
The Tigers trailed 21-10 late in the third quarter before sophomore quarterback Dan Crowley connected with Mark Orlando for a 44-yard touchdown pass, and Tony Vinson burned the Bison (1-2) with an exhilarating 25-yard run up the middle with 7:27 remaining.
"I don't know how many, three?" Vinson said, underestimating by two the number of tackles he broke on the most significant run by a Towson State back in several years. The junior transfer from Purdue finished with 140 yards on 26 carries, as the team total of 202 yards was the Tigers' best in several seasons.
The kicking game was another factor, as Buddy Dunn hit a 28-yard field goal on Towson State's first possession of the second half. Conversely, the 20-yard field-goal attempt of Bucknell's Eric Hacker seven minutes later bounced the wrong way off the right upright, and one of his extra-point attempts was blocked.
The outcome wasn't decided until the last play, when Marcellus Campbell came out of a crowd of players in the end zone to bat down a pass from Bucknell quarterback Travis Kopp. Kopp, a sophomore who completed 26 of 49 passes for a career-high 353 yards, moved the Bison from their 12 to the Towson State 34 in the final 3:13. Bucknell had 501 yards total offense.
After Crowley was intercepted, Kopp led David Berardinelli into the left corner for a 31-yard touchdown pass that barely eluded Aaron Bates.
That gave Bucknell a 21-10 lead -- the biggest of the game -- with 2:05 left in the third quarter, but the Tigers rebounded less than two minutes later with Crowley's bomb to Orlando. The sophomore wide receiver out of Liberty High got a step on the defender early and ran under the ball 2 yards into the end zone.
Crowley, a sophomore from DeMatha, overcame an up-and-down first half to pass for 234 yards, and Kevin Howard had seven catches for 92 yards.
The winning drive came mostly on the ground, as Vinson carried five times for 43 yards to get the Tigers out of a hole on their 11 and into Bison territory. John Swigart, a sophomore from Overlea, got the necessary yardage on a third-and-six from the Bucknell 31 with eight minutes left, before Vinson went the final 25 yards.
Every facet was functioning on the Tigers' opening drive, as they moved 63 yards in five plays. Vinson got out on the right flank on the second snap and sped 31 yards down the sideline. He took it in from seven yards with 66 seconds played.
For the rest of the first half, the Tigers offense was frustrated, as three drives ended in Bucknell territory. Crowley's first-quarter interception was brought back 23 yards to the Tiger 42-yard line by Don Klingensmith, and a Kopp-to-Joe Vargo pass got the Bison 8 yards and their first touchdown.
Bucknell moved ahead with 4:47 left in the half, as a seven-play, 77-yard drive ended with Kopp's 5-yard pass to tight end Mark
Gentile with 4:47 left in the half.