Towson University reached its comfort zone in the second half last night and christened its renovated stadium with a 49-28 opening-game victory over local rival Morgan State.
A Towson-record crowd of 8,517 watched the Tigers dominate the third quarter with two bruising touchdown drives and a goal-line stand that handed the Bears their second consecutive defeat.
The win was the Tigers' 12th in the past 13 meetings with Morgan in their longest active rivalry. Towson leads the overall series 12-4.
Still not home early in the fourth quarter after the Bears struck on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw Littlejohn to Vishante Shiancoe, Towson sealed the victory a little more than a minute later.
A perfectly thrown pass from Jay Amer to James Byroads turned into a 70-yard scoring play for the Tigers, raising their lead to three touchdowns.
Kent State transfer Mikal Lundy, who left the game briefly with a hip pointer, scored three touchdowns for Towson, which is coming off an injury-riddled 3-7 season.
The Tigers have not dropped a home opener since 1991.
Morgan was undermined by penalties and turnovers in its opening loss to Gardner-Webb five days earlier and, to a lesser degree, in this game. The stress of two games so close together may have taken its toll on the Bears' defense, which appeared to tire in the second half.
While taking a 28-21 lead, the Tigers scored more points in the first half than they had amassed in any entire game last season.
It was a crowd-pleasing 30 minutes replete with momentum changes, long-yardage plays and mood swings.
Towson had a two-touchdown advantage with 1:33 remaining in the first half before the Bears struck with a 55-yard pass-run play from Littlejohn to freshman Kelvin Dickens.
That carried the ball to the Towson 3 and two plays later, T.J. Stallings plunged over for a touchdown that narrowed the gap to seven.
Special teams were primarily responsible for Morgan's domination of the first quarter, with two kickoff returns setting up touchdowns.
On the opening kickoff, William Sherman ran the ball back to near midfield, and Littlejohn connected for 44 yards to Shian coe on the first play from scrimmage.
Littlejohn, the 258-pound quarterback, rolled out for an 8-yard touchdown two plays later, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. On the next snap, Littlejohn took off to his right and scored from the 18.
The point-after attempt failed and, as a result, Towson took a 7-6 lead near the end of the quarter with an eight-play, 61-yard drive climaxed by Lundy's burst across the goal line from the 4. Ben Whitacre's placement gave the Tigers the lead.
Morgan required less than a minute to go in front again. William DeShazo unleashed an exciting 79-yard kickoff return to the Tigers' 5, and two runs by Stallings got the Bears into the end zone. Littlejohn passed to Shiancoe for two points and Morgan led, 14-7.
After an exchange of punts, the Tigers were aided by a Morgan penalty for interfering with Jamal White in the end zone on a third-down pass, giving Towson the ball at the Bears' 7. Two plays later, Matt Romeo went off the right side for a touchdown and the game the was tied after Whitacre's kick.
The game swung dramatically on Morgan's next series when Jon Voroshilin - punting on fourth down - couldn't handle a skidding snap from center. The ball bounced off the turf to Towson defensive back Allante Harrison, who ran untouched for 30 yards and a 21-14 Tigers advantage.
Morgan went three-and-out on its next series, and Towson answered with a 54-yard scoring drive climaxed by Jamal White's 33-yard scamper to the end zone on a reverse. Whitacre kicked the point for a 28-14 spread.
Then came Morgan's final big play just before halftime.
The game started late after lengthy pre-game ceremonies that honored the late Donald (Doc) Minnegan, for whom the field is named, and presented a host of dignitaries from the local sports community.
Next for Morgan
Opponent: Florida A&M;
Site: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
When: Sept. 14, 1:30 p.m.
Last game: Lost to No. 1 Miami, 63-17, on Saturday.
Next for Towson
Site: Fisher Field, Easton, Pa.
When: Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Opener: Lafayette plays host to Monmouth tomorrow.