WASHINGTON -- During his post-game interview, Towson quarterback Joe Lee flashed his widest smile when the subject of the offensive line came up.
He knew it was that group that allowed him to rack up 431 passing yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' 49-33 win over Howard yesterday in front of 1,835 at Greene Stadium.
And it was that group that allowed Lee to be sacked only once and hardly hit at all.
"That was the big key," said Justin Mattera, who finished with five receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown. "The whole offense stepped up, but especially the offensive line. When the offensive line gives Joe time, he is so good that he can just pick apart a defense. That is what happened out there today."
It happened all game, even when the Tigers were down 27-7 in the second quarter. Lee led the Tigers (5-2) on a basketball-like run, scoring five unanswered touchdowns from the middle of the second quarter to the start of the fourth to put them up 42-27.
"It was great that I didn't have to worry about the pressure getting to me," Lee said. "The offensive line did a heck of a job. I was hit maybe once. That makes all the difference to a quarterback when you can just sit back there and throw the ball."
The bulk of the damage by Towson's offense happened in the middle of the field. Howard blitzed Lee in the first half but was unable to get to him. The Bison (2-4) switched to a zone in the second half with as many as seven defensive backs, but fared no better.
"They were playing a lot of man, so we would just come across," Towson coach Gordy Combs said. "Then when they were playing two-deep zone, the area that was open was the middle. They were playing a lot of five-man rush. When they had seven defensive backs, we were able to run the ball then."
Howard was without starting quarterback Bobby Townsend, who sprained his foot last week against Florida A&M.; It did not matter much in the first half as Jermaine Hutchinson rushed for 112 yards and touchdown runs of 4, 14 and 3 yards.
His last touchdown put the Bison up 27-7 with 6: 46 left in the second quarter, but the Tigers answered on the next possession when Lee hit Mattera for an 11-yard touchdown right before the half.
The Bison got away from the running game in the second half and ended up attempting to get into what Howard coach Steve Wilson didn't want -- a shootout. Howard went to more shotgun sets, and Hutchinson, who finished with 166 yards, had only 11 more carries.
The passing was not working either with Bison quarterback Roy Anderson, who threw four interceptions. Anderson finished the game 14-for-33 for 315 yards.
"I think when we got up, everybody relaxed," Hutchinson said. "We were expecting to do that, get the lead like that. The first half we proved we can run hard.
"I feel running would have worked the whole game. I don't understand why we started passing. A lot of people were saying we should keep running. We were getting like 10 yards a carry."
With the Bison offense stalled, Towson running back Jason Corle ended three straight touchdown drives in the third quarter with a 7-yard run, a 10-yard pass from Lee and a 1-yard run to put the Tigers up 42-27. Corle finished the game with 85 yards on 16 carries.
The Bison finally answered when Anderson hit Leon Stephens for 47 yards to the Towson 10, and Hutchinson scored on the next play with 13: 31 left in the game. The Bison went for two, but Hutchinson was stopped at the 1-yard line, keeping the score at 42-33.
Lee was intercepted by safety Omar Evans on the Tigers' next series. But Howard failed to score on its next two possessions, and Lee put the game away when he found Mike McGlinchey on a 7-yard touchdown to go up 49-33.
Next for Towson
Site: Minnegan Stadium
When: Saturday, 1 p.m. Record: 0-6 Yesterday: Lost to Harvard, 37-30.