With football season approaching, a gridiron memory might make for an appropriate start.
On September 5th Towson will kick off its 41st season of college football. I haven't seen all 419 games played to date in the program's history. I missed the first 64. But since September 11, 1976 when we opened at Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), I've covered 355 consecutive Tiger games.
That game 33 years ago was my first as Towson's sports information director, and it was my first road trip. We made a day-hop out of it. After picking up the van at the motor pool, I swung by the Administration Building (what is now the Enrollment Services Center) to pick up my student stat crew.
The computer hadn't been invented yet. In those days the statistics had to be kept by hand. It took several folks to record everything. My crew consisted of Bill Stetka (now with the Baltimore Orioles), Steve Murfin (Executive Director of FHSC-Insurance Services), Steve Haas (Senior VP of IT at Walker & Dunlop) and Jim Moorefield (Baltimore County Library).
I recall feeling somewhat anxious for our Division III Tigers. UMES, in my mind, was a very capable opponent. The Eastern Shore school wasn't titled the University of Maryland Eastern Shore until 1970. Before that, it was called Maryland State.
If names like Emerson Boozer, Roger Brown, Earl Christy, Carl Hairston, Gerald Irons, Sherman Plunkett, Johnny Sample, Art Shell and Charlie Stukes are familiar to you than you might understand why I was a tad on edge. The Maryland State Hawks were steep in a rich college football tradition. The small school in Queen Anne's had produced as many, if not more, professional football players than some ACC schools.
Our fledgling program was a mere eight-years-old and barely walking. We hadn't produced an All-American yet, much less a pro. I thought this could be as bad for us as it was for Custer at the Little Big Horn.
Towson's former and venerable lacrosse coach, Carl Runk, had a pet comeback when asked how he thought his squad would fare against such formidable opponents as Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and Virginia.
"We're going to have to keep our helmets on and chin straps buttoned for this one," Carl would quip. "I just hope we can salvage some of the equipment."
I was just glad our athletic trainer at the time, Jim Wall, was making the trip.
It was an exceptionally warm day. UMES didn't have a press box (we didn't either at Burdick Field). We broiled under a hot sun in the open stands. To this day I think the weather played in our favor. The much bigger Hawks quickly ran out of gas, succumbing to the heat.
Senior quarterback Dan Dullea (our first All-American) threw two touchdowns passes while sophomore kicker Randy Bielski (our first player ever taken in the NFL when the BALTIMORE Colts drafted him in the 12th round in 1980) tied Terry O'Brien's single game school record with three field goals as the Tigers blanked the Hawks 30-0. Our defense held the Hawks to just 39 yards on the ground and came up with three interceptions.
The win was a confidence booster. It should go down as one of the marquee games in the history of the program. Our guys realized the magnitude of their accomplishment. This wasn't a victory over Frostburg, Hampden-Sydney, Bridgewater, Gallaudet or Washington & Lee. They had just beaten Art Shell's (Oakland Raiders) alma mater where Sherman Plunkett (New York Jets, San Diego Chargers), Roger Brown (Detroit Lions, LA Rams) and Johnny Sample (Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, New York Jets) had played.
It was one of five shut outs recorded in an 8-2 regular season. After upsetting the heavily favored C.W. Post Pioneers 14-10 on their home field in Greenvale, N.Y. in the quarterfinals, the Tigers held off St. Lawrence 38-36 to advance to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl where a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Norman in the waning seconds lifted St. John's to a 31-28 win and the Division III national championship.
It was one of the most emotionally crushing defeats I've experienced at Towson. It ranks up there with the 1980 loss at Morgan (14-10), the 1993 defeat to Howard (44-41) and the 2002 setback to Colgate (9-7).
We'll have more to say about that national championship game later in the football season.
C.W. Post, by the way, was led that year by John Mohring, a 6-3, 240 lb. ogre who was drafted by the Detroit Lions as a linebacker. He was a great defensive end at Post. He ended his playing career as a Cleveland Brown.
This is going to be the flavor of these nostalgia pieces. Dan and I would appreciate hearing from alums with current information, or, if any reader has an idea or recollection for a story, let us know.
Also, if you like what you read, Dan and I urge you to drop Mike Hermann a line. We can always use a good word or two now and then, for obvious reasons.
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