Prediction: 40-16 … Doesn’t it seem WVU’s last easy win was the Orange Bowl?
By Dave Hickman
MORGANTOWN — In order to explain just how Rob Ambrose and his Towson football team felt after laying a big, fat egg in its season opener against Central Connecticut State, the sixth-year head coach elected to equate it to something everyone seems to relate to these days.
“A very upsetting ice-bucket challenge,’’ Ambrose said. “The bucket of water got dumped on their head and they didn’t like it too much. And truth be told, that’s probably exactly what we needed.’’
The Towson team that comes to Morgantown as a huge underdog to West Virginia in the Mountaineers’ Saturday night home opener probably didn’t do itself any favors in week one. The Tigers lost 31-27 at home to Central Connecticut, a team from one of the more mediocre FCS conferences in the land (the NEC) and one that isn’t even a power there. CCSU was picked to finish fourth in that league.
But it wasn’t even so much the loss that grates on Ambrose and the Tigers, but rather how it came about. There were three fourth-quarter penalties that were killers while Towson held the lead. The most egregious was a roughing-the-punter foul that kept the Tigers from getting the ball back with a three-point lead and less than four minutes to play.
“If I had my way I would have liked to have found a way to escape, not make three critical penalties in the fourth quarter that would have allowed us to maybe escape with a win,’’ Ambrose said. “And then we could have still learned this lesson with one in the ‘W’ column and not in the ‘L’ column. But it didn’t work out that way and painful lessons are the ones best remembered.
“It gives us a lot to teach from and a lot to move forward with.’’
Performances like the one in the opener are not what Towson football has been the past few years. In fact, Ambrose has built quite the program after winning just three games in his first two seasons.
After those first two years came seasons of 9-3, 7-4 and 13-3. The Tigers went to Hartford and beat down UConn 33-18 to start last season. They beat the Nos. 2 and 3 teams on the road in the playoffs before losing to No. 1 North Dakota State in the FCS finals.
Yes, this is a rebuilding year for the Baltimore-area school, but that shouldn’t matter, Ambrose said.
“We’ve kind of spoiled ourselves around here a little bit,’’ said Ambrose, a Towson graduate who served as Randy Edsall’s offensive coordinator at UConn before going home. “Everybody seems to forget that a couple years ago when we were building this we couldn’t find a way to score a touchdown or stop anybody. All those guys with all those wins the last couple of years don’t play here anymore and the perception is that we’ve got to keep everybody from jumping off a cliff.’’
That’s not the case. Towson isn’t exactly in the position where it reloads instead of rebuilds, but there is a winning culture and it’s something that Ambrose intends to keep going. And in a way, the loss in the opener might have at least helped the Tigers identify where they are and what they need to do to keep that culture going.
“We build something every year and every year’s different,’’ Ambrose said. “And these guys finally have a better understanding of who they can be as a team.’’