Tigers Host Lehigh In FCS Second Round
By Simon Habtemariam
The Towson Tigers are the only college football program in history to make the playoffs on the Division I, II, and III levels.
After capturing their first-ever Colonial Athletic Association championship, the Tigers (9-2, 7-1 CAA), led by Towson alumnus Rob Ambrose, will face off against former Patriot League rival Lehigh (10-1, 5-0 Patriot) during the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
"All season long, I've been saying the same thing when we played one nationally ranked CAA team after another," Ambrose said. "I would just say, 'Same challenge, different uniform. That's how Lehigh looks to us."
After the matchup was announced at the NCAA selection show, the former Towson wide receiver and long-time assistant coach had a much less reserved sentiment
"Man, I hate Lehigh," Ambrose said, with a deep sigh.
The Mountain Hawks own the series against the Tigers. Out of their seven Patriot League matchups, the Tigers have come out on top only once, in 2002. Ambrose was an offensive assistant under Gordy Combs for four matchups against Lehigh between 1997 and 2000, when the Tigers were outscored 157-81.
During their only other Patriot League matchup this year, the Tigers beat a struggling Colgate team, 42-17, their first win against the Raiders in 10 contests. During Lehigh's only CAA matchup this season, it fell to New Hampshire in overtime, 48-41.
The CAA sent five programs to the postseason this year, and after one week of play, all five teams are still standing.
"That type of recognition speaks to the quality of play in this league," Ambrose said. "I think there was a point this season where we had nine teams ranked in the Top 25. That is amazing."
Lehigh's offense is led by senior quarterback Chris Lum. The Patriot League offensive player of the year threw for 3,739 yards and 31 touchdowns. Lum is one of the best NFL prospects in the FCS.
The Tigers, who were picked to finish at the bottom of the CAA, pulled off a miraculous turnaround this season, resulting in Ambrose receiving CAA Coach of the Year honors in addition to several players' individual honors.
Freshman tailback Terrance West earned CAA Rookie of the Year and has been a strong candidate for National Freshman of the Year and as of late, has been a finalist on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. The award, named after the former Jackson State and Chicago Bears Hall of Famer, recognizes the most outstanding individual performance in the FCS.
"Terrance is strong and elusive and he has the ability to make people miss," Ambrose said of his freshman tailback. "He has very good field vision and he is very hard to tackle."
The first team All-CAA back finished the year with 27 rushing touchdowns, leading the nation and breaking the former school record of 23, set by All-American Tony Vinson. All in all, seven Tigers were honored by the top FCS conference, three of which were named first team.
Towson and Lehigh will kick off the second round of the FCS playoffs at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium. The winner goes on to the quarterfinals, facing either second-seeded North Dakota State or James Madison, another CAA team, who kick off their second-round game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Simon Habtemariam will be covering the Tigers for the 2011 Season. Follow Simon on Twitter @Simon_HWT and online at http://simonhabtemariam.com for live score updates, recaps and more from the gridiron.
Posted Dec. 1, 2011