As Jason Corle became Towson's all-time rushing leader yesterday in front of 2,481 at Minnegan Stadium, the Tigers' defense made an even stronger statement during a 35-7 win over Lafayette.
Having built the reputation of a patsy during its first two seasons in the Patriot League, the Towson defense held the Leopards to 45 rushing yards in the first three quarters and 95 for the game.
That aided the Tigers in a game deemed important if they wanted to move out of the league's poorhouse. "We just wanted to win today, and I didn't care by how much," Towson coach Gordy Combs said, "We have to get into that next tier. We'd beaten Holy Cross and Fordham, but we'd lost to Lafayette, Bucknell, Lehigh and Colgate twice."
After last year's 5-6 finish, the numbers pointed a damning finger toward Towson's run defense, which gave up 266.5 yards per game in six Patriot League matchups. The Tigers now leave primary pass coverage responsibility to cornerbacks Jabari Garrett and Donald Wood while throwing everyone else toward the line of scrimmage.
"We feel like we have a faster front seven than anyone in the conference," middle linebacker and co-captain Andre Atkins said. "So we want to do a lot of blitzes and slants to utilize that."
So far, it's working. Monmouth (a 34-7 Towson victory) and Lafayette won't fit anyone's description of elite, and two games are a mere fragment of a season, but the run defense has allowed a total of 165 yards in that span.
Like last week, stopping the run meant that the Leopards needed to throw, and they couldn't do it. Brian Buczek completed nine of 27 pass attempts with four interceptions, two apiece to Garrett and free safety Ricky Crestwell.
Crestwell returned the second of his interceptions 76 yards for a touchdown, followed 21 seconds later by another touchdown from Wood's fumble recovery and 8-yard return, giving the Tigers a 35-7 lead with 7: 16 remaining in the third quarter.
Crestwell's return for a touchdown, his second of the season, left the Leopards dejected enough -- "The whole team just walked off the field," Crestwell said -- so that the Tigers didn't have to throw the ball the rest of the game.
While Joe Lee threw for two touchdowns, the spotlight was Corle's alone in the final quarter. Needing 131 yards to break Raven Tony Vinson's school record of 3,058 career rushing yards, he did so with 9: 15 left, using a 4-yard run off right tackle to get to 3,062.
Earlier Corle scored the team's first points on a 1-yard touchdown run with 5: 49 left in the first quarter, then dodged half the Lafayette defense on the way to a 21-yard touchdown catch 17 seconds before the end of the quarter.
He was glad to break the record before the home crowd.
"I told the coach that I wanted to get [the record] here," said Corle, who had 28 carries for 135 yards. "It's also great to get it in a great win like we had."
Lafayette 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Towson 14 7 14 0 -- 35
TU -- Corle 1 run (Kulic kick), 5: 49.
TU -- Corle 21 pass from Lee (Kulic kick), 00: 17. Second quarter
LC -- Nesson 4 run (Brecht kick), 11: 27.
TU -- Overbey 54 pass from Lee (Kulic kick), 4: 14. Third quarter
TU -- Crestwell 76 INT return (Kulic kick), 7: 37.
TU -- Wood 8 fumble recovery (Kulic kick), 7: 16.
A -- 2,481.
First downs 12 24
Rushes-yards 33-95 46-183
Passing 115 219
Comp-Att-Int 28-9-5 28-162
Return Yards 38 149
Punts-Avg. 7-42.4 4-39.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 8-57 8-78
Time of Possession 25: 18 34: 42
Rushing: Lafayette, Fox 3-32, Tuma 12-22, Nesson 5-18, Fiezko 2-17, Mayo 6-11, Kupfer 2-6, Buczek 3-(minus 11). Towson, Corle 28-135, Liebel 5-36, Read 5-15, Harris 3-7, Spera 2-2, Troiani 1-(minus 2), Lee 2-(minus 10).
Passing: Lafayette, Buczek 9-27-4-115, Armstrong 0-1-1-0. Towson, Lee 16-28-2-219.
Receiving: Lafayette, Yarberough 4-74, Kupfer 2-23, Luke 2-9, Prairie 1-9. Towson, Deal 5-69, Overbey 4-76, Corle 4-42, White 3-32.
Next for Towson
Site: Christy Mathewson Stadium, Lewisburg, Pa.
When: Saturday, 12: 30 p.m., Record: 2-0
Yesterday: Beat Colgate, 21-16