With rally, win, Towson State football is alive and as well as it's going to get

The scene at Towson State late Saturday night after the Tigers' come-from-behind, 24-21 win over Bucknell was the way every college football player and coach hopes it will be.

Sweaty but happy players, carrying their helmets, made their way up the hill from Minnegan Stadium to the dressing room in the Towson Center. Classmates, parents and alumni congratulated the victors every step of the way as TSU's snappy band punctuated the night with sounds of the school's fight song.


This was quite a turnabout for Towson State, which no doubt wondered -- especially last year, when it was feared the school would drop the sport -- if football would ever be fun again.

This was the Tigers' first win at home since the last game of the '90 season against Northeastern.


It was also the first win as a head coach for Gordy Combs, who experienced all the trauma of '91, including the 1-10 season. Combs was an assistant coach at Towson for 19 years before taking over this year after Phil Albert retired.

"I feel great," said the smiling, bespectacled Combs as he leaned against a wall outside the team's dressing room.

Every Towson player and coach would have said the same thing. This was a big win for the Tigers, who are now 1-1 with 1-2 Hofstra due here Saturday night.

A lot of things encourage Towson. There's the fresh enthusiasm that goes with a new coach. There's sophomore quarterback Dan Crowley, still a youngster who has played only eight college games and is fast improving.

And there's Tony Vinson, the brilliant transfer running back from Purdue. He scored Towson's first and last touchdowns. The latter, the one that put Towson ahead to stay, came on a spectacular 25-yard draw play in which Vinsonbroke at least three tackles.

"Remember," said Combs, "Tony sat out last year as a transfer. He probably needed a game or two to feel comfortable."

"I was a little tentative in the first game [a 36-19 loss at Rhode Island]," said the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Vinson, who ran for 140 yards Saturday. "In this game, my teammates kept telling me to just relax and play my game, and that's what I did."

Despite the rush of one exhilarating night, Towson is downsizing its program. There are no football scholarships beginning with this year's freshmen. In 1995, the Tigers will be in a Division I-AA, no-scholarship league with New York area schools such as Siena, Marist and Wagner.


But for now, long-troubled TSU is entitled to a little rejoicing.

* Bucknell has a receiver named David Berardinelli who is as good as they get at that level. Football is not all Berardinelli can do either. He's a 3.8 student, president of his fraternity and a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. Says proud Bucknell alumnus Bob Patzwall: "This kid has the whole package."

* Maryland senior linebacker Mike Jarmolowich said before the season he wanted to see how new coach Mark Duffner handles defeat. He's seeing now.

Duffner has lost more games already this year (three) than he lost in the last three seasons (two) at Holy Cross. Jarmolowich is by no means the only one waiting to see how the super intense Duffner holds up under this.

One pleasant surprise at Maryland is the play of receiver Dan Prunzik. The 5-11, 179-pound senior caught five passes for 92 yards and a touchdown Saturday in the heartbreaking 34-33 loss at West Virginia.

* Navy football coach George Chaump says he has never in his career lost two quarterbacks in a season, as he has in two games this year (Jim Kubiak and Brian Ellis).


The Baltimore Colts three decades ago lost three QBs -- John Unitas, Gary Cuozzo and Ed Brown. That's when Tom Matte, with plays written on his wristband, filled in heroically, for which he'll always be remembered by Colts fans.

You never know what'll happen when you lose a quarterback, except for one thing: it'll be different. West Virginia lost its highly touted QB, Jake Kelchner, at halftime Saturday against Maryland. So what developed?

Darren Studstill, once a starter for the Mountaineers, came off the bench and led his team to one of West Virginia's all-time comebacks. In the fourth quarter alone, when Maryland gave up 20 points, Studstill completed 12 of 17 passes for 154 yards and three TDs.

* It can't cheer anyone at College Park that the 0-3 Terps' next opponent is Penn State, a team Maryland hasn't beaten since 1961 -- as well as a team that has walloped its last two opponents (Temple and Eastern Michigan) by a combined score of 101-15.