After an impressive first half of the season, during it which went undefeated, the Towson University football team proved fallible with two heartbreaking losses during Colonial Athletic Association play.
On Oct. 12, the Villanova Wildcats bested the Tigers, 45-35, to snap their 10-game winning streak. After picking up two road wins, Towson returned home to drop a 32-31 decision to rival Delaware Nov. 2, squandering a 21-point lead during the fourth quarter.
As the Tigers continue to grow as a Football Championship Subdivision contender, head coach Rob Ambrose said he was looking to improve his program's ability to maintain a high level of play after enjoying some success the past two years.
"I think there's a mentality in the locker room that we have yet to understand here as a program -- in the building process of a program -- in that we're pretty good," Ambrose said. "We're great when we're coming from behind. We're great when there's a chip on our shoulder. We're great when we're challenged. But staying on top of the hill and keeping that land our own is something that we're still learning how to do well."
After emerging from the ashes of irrelevancy with a historic playoff run in 2011, Towson has developed a program that has performed well through adversity. With a blue-collar identity, Towson prides itself on the ability to grind out close wins, come from behind and even play competitively against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
After closing out the 2012 season with a share of the CAA title, but without a berth in the FCS playoffs, Towson carried a proverbial chip on its shoulder for an entire offseason, and opened its 2013 campaign with furious momentum. After defeating FBS opponent Connecticut to open the season, Towson continued to ride this wave of momentum on its way to a 6-0 record.
But after so much success, the Tigers allowed 21 first-quarter points to veteran coach Andy Talley and the Villanova Wildcats -- a deficit that proved too tough to overcome against a CAA championship contender.
After having some more success on the road against CAA opponents Albany and Richmond, and even leading Delaware for three quarters, Towson was unable to sustain that success for the final 12 minutes of play, leading to its second loss of the season.
"We talked about this as a team [the day after losing to Delaware], that no game is won or lost on a play, or a series, or a quarter, that a football game is won or lost in 60 minutes by an entire team," Ambrose said. "If you go through certain plays earlier in the game -- that can add up to certain equations that can make the outcome different."
Ambrose maintained that these losses couldn't be pinpointed to any particular moment of either game, but rather a mentality, and said it took a certain mentality to sustain the kind of success Towson has had during the past three seasons.
"It's a combination of a lot of things that equates to a perfect storm," Ambrose said. "This has been a trademark of something we've done since we've been back for a couple years. We're playing 60 minutes -- and if you've been around long enough, we've gone way past that."
Following the Tigers' fourth-quarter collapse against the Blue Hens, there was little time to correct their mentality before the Nov. 30 beginning of the FCS playoffs.
As the Tigers build toward the 2013 postseason, as well as seasons beyond, they need to make corrections to take the next step as FCS contenders, Ambrose said.
"I think there are individual experiences that help the program grow to the next level, to a step above," Ambrose said. "I think we've done some of these things exceptionally well in the past. This is one of the growing pains we're experiencing this year, where being on top and staying on top and keeping that mentality throughout the game is something we're learning how to do well. And we haven't gotten there yet."