FRISCO, Texas -- Towson head coach Rob Ambrose knew coming into the FCS national championship game against North Dakota State that the team that made the fewest mistakes would win. That happened to be the Bison, who rolled to a 35-7 victory Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
The Tigers made two big mistakes in the second quarter that North Dakota State turned into touchdowns and the Bison simply didn’t allow Towson to make any headway in the second half en route to winning their third consecutive national championship.“They are perfect,” Ambrose said of North Dakota State, “and the margin for error is small. We made an error.”
Towson had tied the game at the end of the first quarter and was driving for the go-ahead score when a nine-play drive stalled at the North Dakota State 24-yard line. That’s when the Tigers attempted a 41-yard field goal.
But a missed blocking assignment led to the kick being blocked by Bison Colton Heagle. Kyle Emanuel picked up the ball and ran 59 yards to the Tigers’ 5. Ryan Smith rushed for the touchdown on the very next play.
“We made a mistake, and they made us pay for it,” Ambrose said. “We all know what kind of game it was at that point. Things were moving in the right direction at least for us, head to head pretty even.
“You’re about to score three points, they end up scoring seven -- that’s a 10-point swing.”
Towson’s next series also went awry when Peter Athens was intercepted by CJ Smith at the North Dakota State 25, who returned the ball 32 yards to the Tigers’ 43. The Bison needed just five plays to reach the end zone again.
“That ball shouldn’t have been thrown and Pete knows it,” Ambrose said. “They play 11-man defense as good if not better than anybody in the country and they don’t make mistakes.
“I think I said when all of this started, who makes the least amount of turnovers, who makes the least amount of mistakes is going to end up winning this ballgame. Because talent-wise we’re very congruent.”
Although Towson had played from behind before and won, they had never had to do so against a team as good as North Dakota State.
“They’re extremely disciplined, they’re sound and they’re deep. And everybody’s on the same page,” Ambrose said of the Bison. “We’ve been talented enough to overcome our mistakes, but a team that is as flawless as they are, they’re not going to give you a window to overcome your mistakes.
“I don’t have any question, we have the talent to compete with them, but the program needs to get a little deeper, and to get a little more focused. Talent doesn’t win championships, it doesn’t. Discipline, focus, consistency in physicality. They don’t make mistakes.
“I don’t think we did any of the three phases of the game particularly, completely well.”
Towson simply couldn’t muster any offense in the second half to seriously challenge North Dakota State.
“We lost the battle of field position heavily in the third quarter,” Ambrose said. “They came out and stopped us. They’re a great football team. They made some adjustments at halftime and did a good job.”
Towson has come a long way in a few short years -- The Tigers were 1-10 in 2010 -- but Ambrose knows there is still some work to be done.
“We lost today, but we won the year,” a prideful Ambrose said. “We’ve been building this since Day 1. The construction project is not over. We’re not there yet, but we’re certainly getting there.”
“There’s a reason [the Bison are] undefeated and there’s a reason they’ve won this thing three times in a row. And as good as we are, as talented as we are, we’re just not there yet.