Towson State tailback Tony Vinson is healthy again. Quarterback Dan Crowley and wide receiver Mark Orlando never were hurt. And Central Connecticut State is sick of all of them.
At yesterday's season opener before 1,384 at Minnegan Stadium, Towson State unveiled its much-advertised offense, and the Tigers delivered plenty of fireworks.
Crowley completed 10 of 14 passes for 231 yards yards and four touchdowns, including three straight passes for scores. Orlando caught four passes for 131 yards and set a school record with three touchdown receptions. And Vinson, making his first start after coming back from a season-ending knee injury, scored a touchdown and gained 123 yards on 19 carries, as Towson State routed the Blue Devils, 42-7.
It marked the first victory in a season opener for the Tigers since 1988.
Central Connecticut, making its first appearance in Division I-AA, was no match for the Tigers, who piled up 501 yards. Operating behind a superb offensive line, Crowley and Vinson took turns peppering the Blue Devils.
"They [Central Connecticut] weren't that good, but me and Danny just clicked. He has a lot of confidence in me and I have a lot in him," said Orlando, who joined Crowley as Towson State's top passing combination last year. "It just came down to the fact that they weren't covering people."
While Vinson softened up the Blue Devils with 96 rushing yards in the first half, Crowley teamed up with Orlando twice for touchdowns, as Orlando had 88 receiving yards before halftime. Crowley threw for 148 yards in a first half that featured eight completions in 12 attempts.
Crowley only used his arm twice in the second half, and both times he hit the jackpot. First, he connected with Brian Roberts on a 40-yard score to make it 28-0. On his next attempt, he found Orlando for a 43-yard touchdown that put the Blue Devils in a 35-0 hole with 7:59 left in the third period. Several minutes later, Tigers coach Gordy Combs began clearing his bench.
"I had five or six seconds in the pocket all day. I don't think our line made any mistakes," Crowley said. "We made some mental mistakes early and we blew two drives in the first half, but we came out in the second half and put on a show."
Said Combs: "They [Central Connecticut] were playing eight men on the line [to contain Vinson], and giving us one-on-one coverage on Mark and Tony [Hill]. You can't do that against us. We like to utilize all of our weapons."
It was a day of short drives and long gains for Towson State. Although Central Connecticut held the ball for 34 minutes, 53 seconds -- nearly 10 minutes longer than the Tigers -- and did not commit a turnover, the Blue Devils never threatened.
The Tigers' defense had much to do with that. Before their reserves gave up the Blue Devils' lone score in the fourth period, the Tigers bottled up Central Connecticut. They allowed only 89 yards in the first half and sacked Sam Tirone (23 for 38, 138 yards) six times. End Rob Stanavitch had a game-high four sacks.
The Tigers were not especially sharp early. In the first quarter, they drew three, personal-foul penalties. The first foul killed their opening drive, but in their next possession, Crowley quickly made the Blue Devils pay for sloppy pass coverage.
After hitting tight end Mike Mazur for a 24-yard completion, Crowley found a wide-open Orlando streaking down the left sideline for a 51-yard score to give Towson State a 6-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Central Connecticut then held the ball for more than five minutes and drove 54 yards, before stalling at the Towson 24. That's when Vinson took the baton for the Tigers' of fense.
Slashing past and running through tacklers, Vinson gained 22 yards on the first four plays of the drive, then converted a fourth down play on a tough, 5-yard run up the middle. Two plays later, he broke three tackles, before dragging a Connecticut defender into the end zone to cap a 19-yard touchdown run. Crowley passed to Hill for a two-point conversion to stake the Tigers to a 14-0 lead with 12:58 left in the half.
The Tigers blew their next two scoring chances. First, they wasted a 47-yard punt return by Orlando by botching a short-field goal attempt. Then, they drove 58 yards before fumbling the ball away to the Blue Devils with 1:45 left in the half. The Tigers got it right the third time. The defense took just 43 seconds to get the ball back, and on second down, Crowley found Orlando on a crossing pattern for a 27-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the half.
By halftime, Towson State had already amassed 273 yards on offense.
"We didn't beat a great football team today by any means," Combs said. "We're a veteran team, and we're mature enough to know that it's going to take a better effort to beat Delaware State next week."