By Peter Schlehr
Sports Information Director Emeritus
It was never the Ravens vs. Steelers or Army vs. Navy but in their Patriot League years from 1997 to 2003, Towson vs. Colgate was the closest thing the Tigers had to a rivalry.
During their seven years in that league the Tigers were aligned with Holy Cross, Lehigh, Lafayette, Fordham, Bucknell and Georgetown in addition to Colgate. Towson notched at least one victory against everyone in the bunch except the Red Raiders who enter this Saturday's contest 9-0 all-time against the Tigers.
Put another way, the Tigers are a winless 0-9 against the Red Raiders.
In fact, Colgate is the only opponent Towson has faced eight or more times but never beaten. Only James Madison has more victories against Towson with the Dukes out front in the 23-game series 17-5-1.
So what made those annual gatherings of Raiders and Tigers a grudge match?
The answer: frustration.
Colgate may not have thought so but in the minds of the Tigers and their fans the series evolved into a rivalry. Colgate frustrated Towson. At least twice the Tigers were in position to win only to be denied.
The most frustrating of all the games was the 2002 match up, the Raiders' most recent trip to Unitas Stadium.
On that day, the Tigers were simply "outnumbered" as the Raiders bolted Unitas Stadium with a 9-7 league win.
Lane Schwarzberg booted three goals for Colgate, including a game winning and career long 39-yarder with one tick left on the clock to snatch what could have been a hard-earned 7-6 Towson win.
"I didn't catch it until I was watching the video the next day," said Tiger Coach Gordy Combs. "On their last series, I saw (defensive back) P.D. Moore jumping around like he didn't know what he was doing on defense and that just wasn't normal with him. P.D. was indecisive. He didn't know whether to stay in the box or play the slot."
P.D.'s dilemma stemmed from the fact that Colgate had too many players in the game.
The Tigers were outnumbered.
"They had two wide receivers, two tight ends and two backs in the game," Gordy said. "They were playing 12 on 11. They completed a key pass that helped put them in field goal range. They should have been penalized but the referees didn't catch it."
Moore was aware something was awry but he couldn't express it as Colgate trotted off with win number seven over the Tigers.
The loss took Towson out of the championship picture. The Tigers entered the game with a 5-2 record that included a 3-1 PL mark with victories over Holy Cross, Lehigh and Bucknell. Colgate's win sent Towson into a tailspin. The Tigers limped to a 1-3 finish.
"There always seemed to be a fly in the ointment whenever we played them," Gordy recalls.
In the 2000 contest, Colgate capitalized on three blocked punts, a blocked extra point and an interception in overtime to escape with a 30-27 win.
With the exception of those two encounters, the Raiders have hung up some huge numbers on the Tigers, beating Towson by 19 or more points six times.
In 2003, when Colgate played for the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship, the Red Raiders beat the Tigers 26-7 in Hamilton. The Tigers' Mikal Lundy scored on a 28-yard run on Towson's opening drive but it was downhill from there.
"Hopefully the jinx will be broken this week," Gordy said. "It might be Towson's last chance. If I recall correctly, this is the end of the contract. This game was supposed to be played much earlier but when we scheduled Navy that pushed it back a couple of times."
None of the current Tiger players has any recollection of this series. In fact, neither does anyone on the Colgate roster.
But the Tigers' head coach, Rob Ambrose, remembers.
Rob was a member of Gordy's staff for the five clashes with the Red Raiders that resulted in losses of 35-10, 34-3, 35-14, 38-14 and 30-27 in overtime. He'll tell his charges of a rivalry that once was and how they could put an end to a haunting frustration.