A few days after Towson State came back from a 20-point deficit with six minutes left to win at Indiana, Pa., Oct. 31, Tigers first-year coach Gordy Combs was discussing the improbable comeback with a friend.
"Someone told me, 'You'll never have another game like that in your coaching career,' " Combs said. "Well, they were wrong. I just hope I haven't used up all of my luck in two games."
Towson State's latest miraculous finish came in Saturday's 33-32 victory over Northeastern.
The Huskies went ahead with four seconds left, but the Tigers used three laterals on the ensuing kickoff to move to the Northeastern 20 as time elapsed. Coaches and players entered the field during the Huskies' premature celebration, and they were penalized for illegal participation. Dan Crowley used the extra chance to throw a touchdown pass to Mark Orlando, who began the kickoff return that revived memories of the Stanford-Cal finish of a decade ago.
"After Northeastern scored, I subbed some receivers and running backs onto the kickoff team, and told them whatever happens, keep the ball alive," Combs said. "I almost got down in the dirt and diagrammed it. It's like I was 12 years old, playing two-hand touch in the street in Hamilton."
The Tigers (5-4) have a shot at their first winning season since 1986, their last in Division II. Towson State goes to Delaware Saturday (1 p.m.) to face the Yankee Conference champion, which learned yesterday that it will play host to an NCAA Division I-AA tournament first-round game Nov. 28.
"It's going to be hard to bring our guys back down," Combs said, "but Delaware is in the playoffs, so our players can say, 'Let's see how good we really are.' It's great for the entire program that we have something to play for in the last game."
In winning three straight for the first time in five years, Towson State avenged three 1991 losses in which it allowed 50 points or more. It last played Delaware in 1984, losing, 56-23. The Blue Hens (8-2) had a six-game winning streak stopped last week by Richmond, 29-21. They went into the Richmond game assured of their sixth I-AA appearance in 12 years.
The Northeastern comeback was accomplished with Kevin Howard knocked out of the game with a mild concussion. He left with six catches, and he goes to Delaware with 155 for his career, two shy of the school record. Hari Lymon gained a career-high 206 yards in Johns Hopkins' 21-9 victory over Western Maryland. A freshman from City who was The Baltimore Sun Offensive Player of the Year in 1991, Lymon said he had never before rushed for 200 yards.
"I think I had 190 against Loyola last year," Lymon said.
The 5-foot-5, 140-pounder ended the season with 753 yards on 148 carries. Some at Hopkins already have projected that total over four seasons, since the school record is 2,224 yards. Paul Ferreri, who had missed the three previous games with an injury, returned for Western Maryland and carried 14 times for 45 yards. He had 263 yards this season and 2,133 for his career.
Johnson still gets a record
Johns Hopkins held Western Maryland standout Rob Johnson to 101 yards rushing, and he finished with 1,560 yards, 34 shy of the school record set by Eric Frees in 1990. Johnson did better Frees' 1991 mark for carries in a season, as 29 against the Blue Jays gave him 330.
The Green Terrors, who haven't won at Homewood Field since artificial turf was installed there in 1981, finished with four straight losses, and coach Dale Sprague was angry afterward.
"This is the most underachieving football team I've ever coached," Sprague said. "I'm ashamed of it. We're not getting the commitment out of the players that we're getting out of the coaching staff. We beat Dickinson [Oct. 17], and our kids began talking about rings. Our kids lost their focus, and that's my fault."