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Towson has Holgorsen’s respect

AP photo Towson coach Rob Ambrose took his team to the FCS championship game last season.

MORGANTOWN — It’s time for the yearly history lesson for West Virginia’s football team, and Dana Holgorsen came to class this week with his lecture notes all in order.

It’s the FBS vs. FCS, Goliath and David.

“There are lots and lots of examples and I’ve got them written down,’’ Holgorsen said. “I’ll make sure our team is aware of it. It happens every year.’’

“We’ll talk about it. You’ve got to respect your opponent.’’

What he’s talking about is upsets. There’s really no other way to put it when a Football Bowl Subdivision team is beaten by a Football Championship Series opponent. Be it scholarships or facilities or crowd support or any other variable, FBS teams have all the advantages.

Still, FCS teams still spring upsets, so the lectures have to be presented. It’s Holgorsen’s week to present them because Saturday night brings one of those programs, 2013 FCS runner-up Towson, to Mountaineer Field for WVU’s home opener.

“Well, Virginia Tech knows. James Madison beat them [in 2010]. [Navy] knows. [Delaware] beat them [59-52 in 2007],’’ Holgorsen said. “Villanova beat Temple [in 2009] and should have beat Syracuse [last weekend, falling in overtime]. The list goes on and on. William & Mary almost beat Maryland last year.’’

If those examples sound rather arbitrary and lacking some of the more notable upsets (Appalachian State over Michigan, North Dakota State’s five straight wins over FBS teams, etc.), it’s for a reason. The teams Holgorsen cited are just those that belong to the Colonial Athletic Association, which is Towson’s current league.

Towson coach Rob Ambrose puts it pretty simply when asked about the possibilities.

“It’s still football,’’ Ambrose said. “As many great players as [West Virginia] has on their roster, they can only put 11 on the field at a time.’’

Towson has been one of those giant-killers. The Tigers went to Hartford last year and whipped Connecticut, sparking a 13-3 season that didn’t end until North Dakota State beat them in the FCS title game.

This isn’t the same Towson team, though. The Tigers lost their opener last week to Central Connecticut State 31-27.

“We’ve had some success in the last couple years with a rather veteran team against some FBS programs,’’ Ambrose said. “But I don’t know if we’ve played anybody the caliber or the talent that West Virginia has right now.’’

Well, that’s not entirely true. Two years ago Towson gave LSU all it could handle before losing 38-22 in Baton Rouge.

Ambrose at least has some knowledge of West Virginia. He was the offensive coordinator at UConn under Randy Edsall when the two teams were in the Big East, although that’s probably nothing significant given the changes in coaches and styles at WVU since then.

But more recently, Ambrose studied CAA opponent William & Mary, which played at West Virginia last season. He’s seen the progress the Mountaineers have made.

“I’ve seen what they were and what they’ve been becoming,’’ Ambrose said. “It’s a little bit of a building process with the [coaching] changeover and the building of what Dana’s been doing there.

“As with us and them, what we were last year is not what we are this year. Every year’s a new year.’’

Ambrose, though, is realistic about his team’s chances. In order to have a chance, Towson will have to play exceptionally well, and that means across the board. He was asked, for instance, if he could identify some matchups that might be particularly difficult for his team.

“How much time you got?’’ Ambrose said. “We’re going to have our hands full in every matchup, 11-on-11 on every snap and every play. And the difference between us and maybe some other teams is we’ll be excited about it.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or or follow him at

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