After what was the greatest victory in Towson University football history on Saturday, the Tigers now find themselves headed to Frisco, Texas to take on North Dakota State for the NCAA Division I FCS football championship. The Tigers' great comeback against Eastern Washington, beating the Eagles 35-31, is one that will be talked about in Towson for decades to come.
There are few times in a person’s life where you can say there was absolutely nowhere else in the world you would have wanted to be. For me Saturday being in Cheney, Wash. was one of those moments.
It was a long flight out, and during those idle times on an airplane, the mind starts to wander. Mine certainly did. You think of moments and people. I had the good fortune to sit on the plane for awhile with Tiger Head Coach Rob Ambrose. I mentioned to Rob how I had been thinking about some of the great moments in Towson football history and also some of the worst. In my blog next week leading up to the championship game, I will look back at some of those moments. But for now, let’s bask in the glory of what this 2013 football team has done.
Towson has now played nine road games this year, and the Tigers have won them all. Dating back to last year, Towson has won 12 consecutive road games. As the title of this blog says, the Tigers will have traveled 6,536 miles this season to get to Frisco on January 4. Trust me, having been on every one of those miles, it has not been an easy journey. But it has certainly been worth it.
These group of young men have represented this university we all love with nothing but class and dignity on and off the field. In this era of college athletes getting into trouble, it seems every day these Tigers have been exemplary.
How about some of those performances this past Saturday? With the Tigers offense, it always starts with Terrance West. Going into Saturday’s game, he was 32 yards from passing Jameel Branch of Colgate for the most yards rushing in one season of FCS football.
Branch set the record in 2003, but in less than four minutes of Saturday’s semifinal game, Terrance had broken the record. With 115 yards on Saturday, TWest has now rushed for 2,410 yards. The Fivision I record is held by Barry Sanders, set in 1988, with 2,628 yards. So Terrance needs 219 yards to hold the all-time D-1 record. That will be extremely difficult against a North Dakota State defense that is the best in FCS.
Terrance needs 158 yards to take over second place, which is currently held by Kevin Smith of the University of Central Florida (2,567 yards in 2007).
For just about any other back in the country, rushing for 115 yards on 27 carries is a good day. But not for Terrance.
However, his next-to- last carry of the day Saturday, a three-yard touchdown run that cut the EWU lead to 31-28, may have been one of his greatest ever. Terrance went off tackle left, got hit by two Eagles, shook them off and then cut right, got hit in the backfield again, cut back up the middle and avoided two more Eagles before finding the endzone. Find the video. It was unreal.
How about Derrick Joseph and Brian Dowling? With the Tigers missing their two top receivers to injury in Spencer Wilkins and Leon Kinnard, these two stepped up. Joseph, who has been mostly a guy who catches bubble screens and short passes, went deep in the first quarter and made a spectacular one-handed 50-yard grab. Dowling made a beautiful 38-yard diving touchdown grab in the second quarter and had a huge 22-yard catch on the Tigers' final go-ahead drive.
Then there was Connor Frazier. The sophomore quarterback had to come in and replace the injured Peter Athens in the second half, after Peter suffered a shoulder injury late in the first half. Connor is a kid I know the coaches love. He barely lost the starting job to Athens in training camp, but he has been a contributor during the year. Frazier has caught TD passes, come in on special situations and run the ball, and has done a fantastic job as the holder on extra points and field goals.
When the Tigers started their final drive, they only had 1:35 and two timeouts to go 71 yards. Coming into this drive, Frazier was just one-of-five on pass plays. During the drive of his young college career, Connor completed all five passes he attempted to five different receivers.
Of course it all came down to that final play.
Third-and-goal from the one. Nineteen seconds left. No timeouts. If you run and don’t score, its going to be nearly impossible to get everyone lined up for a field goal. It was do or die. Connor did. And Eastern Washington’s championship hopes died.
So now there are two weeks until the big game. Towson will face a juggernaut in North Dakota State. The Bison are undefeated and looking for their third straight FCS championship. NDSU Head Coach Craig Bohl will be coaching his final game with the Bison. He is leaving to become the head coach at the University of Wyoming.
It won't be easy. Nothing for the 2013 Towson University Tigers has been easy. But they have passed every test. Just one more to go.