Tiger football reaches the FCS National Championship for the first time, racks up 13 wins and finishes the season ranked No. 2.
OK. We’re bragging. As Towson’s alumni magazine, we have the right to applaud the football team’s stellar season.
But we’re not the only ones touting the Tigers’ accomplishments— 13 wins and a berth in the FCS Championship game.
The Eastern College Athletic Conference named the Tigers the 2013 ECAC Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Team of the Year.
Voters unanimously elected the players and Coach Rob Ambrose ’93 as the winners of the Lambert Meadowlands Award presented to the top FCS team in the East.
National and local media chimed in. “As the Tigers rise, their school looks on and revels” screamed a front-page headline above the fold in The Baltimore Sun on Jan 4. On the same day its sports section also published a front-page story asking, “Who Are These Guys?”
The City Paper in its Power Rankings noted that “rarely have we seen the swelling of Tiger Pride as we did during the recent run. Roar!”
Players racked up individual accolades with five Tigers named to The Sports Network’s three All-America teams. Junior running back Terrance West and senior tackle Eric Pike were All-America first- team selections; sophomore fullback Emmanuel Holder and senior cornerback Jordan Love were named to the second team while senior linebacker Telvion Clark earned third-team honors.
Clark, Holder, Love, Pike, West and cornerback Tye Smith were also named to the FCS-All America team by the College Sports Journal.
Pike, the Tigers’ most decorated offensive lineman in the 45-year history of the program, holds the Towson record for most consecutive career starts at 49. He was also selected to the Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association teams and had All-CAA honors.
While it’s impossible to mention every player who earned plaudits or highlight all the action, here are some key plays from the Tiger wins that made 2013 a season to remember.
Aug. 29 Towson 33 / Connecticut 18
With the game tied at 7-7, sophomore defensive tackle Jon Desir intercepted a pass. Then senior running back Sterlin Phifer ran for 24 yards, crossing the goal line on the next play to give the Tigers a lead they never relinquished. Towson went on to defeat an FBS team for the first time in school history.
Sept. 7 Towson 49 / Holy Cross 7
When Holy Cross reached the Towson 13, Tiger junior safety Thomas Bradley intercepted a pass, going 90 yards to give Towson a 28-7 lead.
Sept. 14 Towson 49 / Delaware State 7
At the home opener Towson missed a field goal in the second quarter. Three plays later, senior linebacker Monte Gaddis picked off a pass, returning it to the three-yard line. Two plays later, Terrance West scored. The rout was on.
Sept. 21 Towson 35 / North Carolina Central 17
Leading 14-10 at the half, Towson upped its running game in the second half, going 67 yards in four plays. After a 27-yard pass to junior Brian Dowling, West did the rest with a 22-yard touchdown run to increase the Tigers’ lead to 21-10, and give them the momentum to beat a feisty NC Central team.
Sept. 28 Towson 35 / Stony Brook 21
With Stony Brook ahead 21-17 at the end of the third quarter, senior D.J. Soven, who had struggled in the first few games, nailed a career-high 51-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-20. It was the lift the team needed, before freshman Darius Victor sealed the victory with a 31-yard touchdown run.
Oct. 5 Towson 44 / New Hampshire 28
New Hampshire led 20-3 in the first quarter before Towson battled back to 20-17. Then Tigers’ senior linebacker Telvion Clark forced a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive tackle Arnold Farmer. Quarterback Peter Athens took the Tigers down the field, capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass to junior Spencer Wilkins.
Oct. 19 Towson 44 / Albany 17
In the second quarter sophomore Donnell Lewis picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 17-7 lead that they never relinquished.
Oct. 26 Towson 48 / Richmond 32
With 1:45 left in the first half, sophomore safety Christian Carpenter picked off a pass and returned it 34 yards for the touchdown to make it 27-12.
Nov. 16 Towson 15 / William and Mary 9
Coming off a devastating 32-31 home loss to Delaware, Towson was down 9-7 in the third quarter. The momentum changed when offensive guard Anthony Davis forced a fumble that was recovered by freshman wide receiver Andre Dessenberg. Towson eventually scored a touchdown with a two-point conversion to win.
Nov. 23 Towson 28 / James Madison 17
The Tigers scored 21 unanswered points in the first half including a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peter Athens to Connor Frazier.
Dec. 7 Towson 48 / Fordham 28
The game was tied at 21-21 going into the second half and Towson’s top two receivers, Spencer Wilkins and Leon Kinnard, were sidelined with injuries. Andre Dessenberg came through with his first career touchdown reception for the go-ahead score. Towson scored two more touchdowns and never looked back.
Dec. 13 Towson 49 / Eastern Illinois 39
The Tigers were down 14-0 on a snowy field in Charleston, Ill., when Terrance West gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead with 4:39 left in the second quarter on a 63-yard run. He finished with 354 yards (an FCS single-game rushing record) on 39 carries in the snow, including five touchdowns.
Dec. 21 NCAA FCS semifinal
Towson 35 / Eastern Washington 31
Trailing with less than six minutes remaining, reserve quarterback, sophomore Connor Frazier led a stirring comeback, making the score 31-28. With just 19 seconds left, Eastern Washington stuffed West at the one-yard line for no gain. On the next play, Frazier carried the ball into the end zone for the biggest win in program history. With the win, the Tigers advanced to the NCAA FCS championship game on Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas. That game ended with North Dakota State scoring 35 points to Towson’s 7. We congratulate the Tigers for their first-ever appearance in the FCS championship game and a record-making season.
Ginny Cook is the editor of the magazine.
Mat Schlissel ’92, Dan O’Connell and others in Athletic Media Relations contributed to this story.
This was no magic carpet ride.
This was a nearly 1,400-mile journey on a bus. It took 28 straight hours each way, save for brief breaks at interstate rest areas and in Crossville, Tenn., and Lonoke, Ark., to change drivers.
But for Tiger football fans, this trip was gridiron heaven. They’d make it to Frisco, Texas, in time to watch their team compete in the FCS Championship game against the North Dakota State Bison.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” says Heather Sorensen ’95, director of event and operations in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. “I was so excited to be with the students.”
Sorensen chaperoned one of six buses that transported TU students from Towson to Texas. Their journey began in a frenzy as snow blanketed the Baltimore area in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 3 and chaperones texted frantically about road conditions. But TU crews led by Paul Thomas, director of landscape services, eased their fears, clearing paths and lots so buses could arrive and students could park.
Once underway, Sorensen’s bus rocked with a Shrek sing-along, a rendition of “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker and choruses of “500 Miles” at the appropriate mile-marker.
Bus riders also whiled away the hours watching football movies where heroic underdogs beat the odds. Think “Rudy” and “Friday Night Lights.”
“As we got closer students sang the TU fight song,” Sorensen says. “Closer still and the buses pulled into a rest area so Tiger fans could brush their teeth and change into ‘Frisco-bound’ T-shirts.”
Reality hit when they finally rolled up to the stadium and encountered “Dakota town.” Herds of Bison campers, Bison banners and Bison fans dominated the landscape.
“It was definitely a different environment than what I am used to,” notes Drew Voight, a TU information technology major. “Even though we were outnumbered by Bison fans, the student section made sure that everyone around knew that Towson was at the game.”
In the end, the Tigers lost 35-7, but the score, the outcome, didn’t matter. “I was still excited to be at the championship game and knew that our football team gave it their all,” Voigt says.
Sorensen, a TU football season-ticket holder for the first time, says, “The Tigers gave me what I was looking for—a way to connect to the community that was not isolated to arts events.”
These fans had become part of the Tigers’ Cinderella story and will be back in the stands next year. “The atmosphere is the best part of watching a Tigers game,” says Voight.
Less than 12 hours after they arrived in Frisco, the Towson gang was on the road again for the 28-hour ride home.
“I thought they would be grumpy,” Sorensen says. But whether singing the ESPN theme song on the bus mic or getting a thank-you tweet from the football team, she says, “It was a joyful experience the entire time.”