LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Joe Lee's moment arrived yesterday, and he seized it, leading a late 80-yard scoring drive that gave Towson a 27-20 victory over Bucknell and deflated the home fans at Christy Mathewson Stadium.
The winning drive was capped by Jason Corle's 4-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds remaining.
Lee, who ended up with 407 yards passing on the day, might have been just as happy without the opportunity to play hero. He'd done well enough already with two touchdown passes and more than 300 yards when Noah Read plunged into the end zone from 1 yard to give the Tigers (3-0, 2-0 Patriot League) a 20-12 lead with 5: 59 left in the third quarter.
But the Bison (2-1, 1-1) used good field position to overcome an offense that doesn't specialize in big plays. Bucknell returner Kevin Eiben took Mike Walck's punt 20 yards to the Towson 28.
Six plays later, quarterback Don McDowell found tight end Mike Weaver on a 4-yard touchdown pass, then scored the two-point conversion to tie the game with 3: 21 left, granting Lee the stage denied him in blowout wins over Monmouth and Lafayette.
Lee, a backup to Kevin Smith the past three seasons, had waited for chances like this. Despite his inexperience, his teammates made him a co-captain, and he rewarded them by throwing for 467 yards in the season opener.
With the stakes higher this time, Lee had no intention of letting them down.
Lee hooked up with Jamal White for 52 yards on the winning drive, with the receiver beating cornerback Reed Tunison just as Adam Overbey had done earlier in the day on a 58-yard touchdown pass that had given Towson a 13-12 lead shortly after halftime.
"We were in control," Towson coach Gordy Combs said. "That's when Joe Lee's poise came through. That's what happens when you have a guy who's waited his turn. Our team is very respectful of him."
White's catch put the Tigers at the Bucknell 28, and another White reception gained 8 yards. Corle's longest run of the day, 7 yards, was followed by a leaping catch by Mike Deal at the 1, and only a false start penalty intervened before Corle's winning score.
After three incomplete passes by McDowell and an interception by defensive back Dennis Cliggett, Towson had its biggest win since moving into the Patriot League three years ago. Now, the Tigers have assumed a place in the group behind league elites Lehigh and Colgate, which Bucknell beat a week ago.
"This is a huge win," Lee said. "It's the first time we've been 3-0 since I've been here, first time we've beaten Bucknell. It puts us into the next tier, so we have to move from there."
Beating Bucknell was particularly sweet for the Tigers, who had lost by a combined score of 79-13 in the previous two meetings. Last year's 46-13 loss stuck in the minds of most Towson players.
They remembered hearing insults, and they remember the Bison using trick plays when the game was well beyond doubt.
"They really embarrassed us, tried to run the score up on us," Corle said. "In the fourth quarter, they faked a punt and a field goal and scored on both. That really set into us."
Next for Towson
Site: Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, New York
When: Saturday, 1: 30 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost to Harvard, 24-7.
Towson's victory yesterday ended a long run of frustration against Bucknell, which had won the five previous meetings by an average score of 36-11:
Year, Final score
1994, Bucknell 41, Towson 28
1995, Bucknell 14, Towson 7
1996, Bucknell 44, Towson 7
1997, Bucknell 33, Towson 0
1998, Bucknell 46, Towson 13
Totals Bucknell 178, Towson 55