TIGER NOSTALGIA: Tigers' Miracle Win Over Northeastern Is A Story Worth Repeating
Courtesy: Athletics Media Relations  
Release: 10/22/2009
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Dan Crowley threw a game-winning touchdown pass after the game was over.
Courtesy:Towson Athletics

By Dan O'Connell 

Jack Grinold has been the Sports Information Director at Northeastern University for nearly 50 years. In fact, he has been in the athletic public relations business so long, he was the Boston Patriots' original Public Relations Director when the American Football League was started in 1960.

It's been my good fortune to count Jack among my friends for more than 25 years and I always enjoy his company. Most of the time, Jack is a very friendly, jovial man who loves to tell stories.

However, there is one story he never wants to tell and it annoys him whenever it's mentioned  - the football game between Towson and Northeastern that was played on November 14, 1992 in the old Minnegan Stadium.

The Tigers pulled out a 33-32 win on a touchdown pass that was thrown after the game was over - and that's just part of the story.

With Towson and Northeastern slated to face each other on Saturday in Boston, it's certain that somebody will mention that game to Jack - and set him off again. The only thing I know is that it won't be me.

For the first 59 minutes and 56 seconds, there was nothing special about that Towson-Northeastern game in 1992.

Nobody remembers that Henry Rogan set a school record with four field goals for Northeastern. The fact that Towson's Brian McCarty ran for 245 yards and scored three touchdowns has been long forgotten.

In fact, when quarterback Ralph Barone scored on a 32-yard run with four seconds remaining, it appeared that the Huskies had pulled off a dramatic 32-27 win.

In the first quarter, Towson took a 14-3 lead. By halftime, the Huskies' deficit was 21-10.

In the third quarter, the Huskies pulled to within 21-19. When Rogan booted a 26-yard field goal with 13:12 left in the fourth quarter, Northeastern owned its first lead of the game at 22-21.

But the Huskies' lead lasted only 20 seconds. On Towson's first play after the ensuing kickoff, McCarty received a great block from offensive guard Greg Lohr and raced 73 yards around the right side to give Towson a 27-22 lead.

Rogan's fourth field goal of the game, a 26-yard kick, pulled Northeastern to within 27-25 with 9:52 remaining in the fourth period.

The Huskies still trailed by 27-25 with 59 seconds remaining before Barone directed a masterful drive. He completed four of six passes for 50 yards to move Northeastern to the Towson 32-yard line with 22 seconds remaining. Trying to improve the Huskies' field position for a possible game-winning field goal, Barone threw two incomplete passes. With 11 seconds left and one time out remaining, Barone shocked the Tigers by running a quarterback draw. He ran past the stunned Tigers and ran into the end zone untouched, putting Northeastern ahead by 32-27 with only four seconds left.

While the Huskies were celebrating an almost-certain victory, the Tigers were setting up a many-lateral kickoff return.

"It was the old Stanford-Cal play," said Towson Coach Gordy Combs, referring to the 1982 game where California used a many-lateral kickoff return to beat Stanford, 25-20. "We told our guys to just keep the game alive with laterals and hope something good would happen."

Mark Orlando received Rogan's squib kick at the Towson 30-yard line and ran to the left. When he was about to be tackled near the Towson bench, he lateraled to lineman Jeff Law. Law didn't want the ball either so he gave it to Dedin Witherspoon. Witherspoon lateraled to Julian Blair at the Tiger 40-yard line. Blair came out of the pack with the ball and ran to the right side of the field.

When Blair reached midfield, he ran into a dozen Northeastern players who had run onto the field, thinking the game was over. Suddenly, they realized the game was not over. They knew they shouldn't be out there and turned back.

By the time Blair was finally tackled at the Northeastern 20-yard line, there were zeroes on the scoreboard clock and penalty flags all over the field.

While the Northeastern coaching staff complained that Orlando had been tackled before he lateraled, the officials ruled that Northeastern was guilty of having too many players on the field. The Huskies were penalized half the distance to the goal line.

Since a game can't end on a defensive penalty, Towson was awarded one untimed play from the ten-yard line. With one play to win the game, quarterback Dan Crowley dropped back and lofted a perfect pass to Orlando in the left corner of the end zone. Orlando caught the pass for the game-winning touchdown and a stunning 33-32 Towson victory.

"It was just like the Stanford-Cal game," Combs said. "Only the band didn't come out on the field. Their players came out on the field and that was more important."

Soon after the game ended, the phones started ringing in the press box. News of the Tigers' miraculous victory spread up and down the East Coast.

When one local television station was called with the final score, the producer was confused. He said that his cameraman left after Northeastern went ahead with four seconds remaining, certain that the game was over.

Fortunately, one TV station had remained until the bitter end. WJZ-TV had the precious footage that everyone seemed to want.

Chris Ely was the weekend anchor at the time and he was contacted by media all over the nation looking for the film.

Within hours, WJZ's footage was appearing on ESPN and CNN, much to the delight of Towson - and much to the chagrin of Northeastern.

Two days after the game was over, Northeastern Coach Barry Gallup was still upset. He was adamant that the Huskies had won the game.

He told Bob Monahan of The Boston Globe, "I don't care if there is anything in the newspapers or not. We are not about to cry over any official's decision and we don't want to take anything away from Towson ..."

Then he did.

He added, "From what we saw on our film he (Orlando) appeared to be on the ground.  But while he was down he threw the ball to another Towson player. We feel he was down and the game was over."

Barone, who was a hero for about four seconds, lamented, "I guess I should have gone down at the one-yard line so we could kick the field goal. I don't know what else to say. We thought we heard a whistle and we ran on to the field. So did they (the Tigers)."

Crowley, who threw the game-winning TD pass, recalls, "When we went out for that last play, we were hoping to get Mark (Orlando) open on single coverage. He faked the guy to the inside and went to the corner of the end zone. It was a moment we'll never forget."

Crowley and Orlando were only sophomores at the time. They went on to enjoy outstanding college careers. Crowley still holds the school record with 81 career touchdown passes while Orlando owns the school record with 31 career touchdown receptions.

Just last weekend, Orlando was inducted into the Towson University Athletic Hall of Fame.

When people were starting to forget about the crazy finish, ESPN ran its season-ending College Football Highlights Show.

Late in the show, ESPN revealed its choice for the Wildest Finish of the Season. Naturally,  there was the footage of the Towson-Northeastern game, complete with the play-by-play radio account by Spiro Morekas.

After that bizarre game, Towson and Northeastern did not play again for 12 years. Now that they are rivals in the Colonial Athletic Association, the story is told and re-told in CAA press boxes nearly every week.

In fact, Bob Picozzi of Comcast SportsNet and ESPN heard about the game last November in the Unitas Stadium press box prior to a matchup between Towson and William & Mary.

Hours before kickoff, William & Mary Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop related the story to Picozzi. He was the secondary coach at Northeastern in 1992 and had his own recollection.

"On that last play, their receiver (Orlando) pushed off on our cornerback," he said. "I was furious that their guy was so wide open. After the game, our cornerback brought me over to their kid (Orlando) so he could tell me that he pushed him off. He just smiled and nodded."

I was happy that Jack Grinold was home in Boston and well out of earshot when that story was told.

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