There are three finalists competing for the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the most outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
As far as Rob Ambrose is concerned, there is only one deserving winner, and that player is Towson junior running back Terrance West.
As West’s coach, Ambrose does not pretend that his perspective might not have a black-and-gold tinge.
But after watching West set a FCS playoff single-game record with 354 yards and five touchdowns in the seventh-seeded Tigers’ 49-39 upset of No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois in Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal -- outdueling Panthers senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (321 yards and two scores), also a finalist -- Ambrose was incredulous when asked if West deserved to win the FCS version of the Heisman.
The winner will be announced Monday night at The Sports Network's FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Philadelphia.
“You mean there’s someone in America that doesn’t believe that this kid is the No. 1 player in the country?” Ambrose said Monday during a conference call arranged by the Colonial Athletic Association. “You’re telling me there’s somebody out there that actually believes this?
"I will tell you that if he does not win the award after he just went head-to-head with the guy who was supposedly the No. 1 guy, where a tailback has more rushing yards in a quarterfinal playoff game than a quarterback has passing yards and the kid alone scores five touchdowns, if he doesn’t win this award tonight, then there is something wrong with how we tabulate and what we’re looking at.
"That’s a long answer to 'hell yes, he should win this award.'"
To be fair, all three candidates bring impressive credentials to the table. Garoppolo finished his final year of eligibility leading the country in passing yards (5,050), tying for first in passing touchdowns (53), and ranking fourth in passing efficiency (168.3).
Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams – who Towson will meet in Saturday’s semifinal – is tied with Garoppolo for touchdowns and ranks first in passing efficiency (185.7) and second in yards (4,600).
West leads the nation in rushing yards (2,295), rushing average (164.6) and total touchdowns (39). He shares the FCS single-season record for touchdowns with Delaware’s Omar Cuff, who established the mark in 2007.
The only concern for West is that the votes for the Walter Payton Award were tabulated before last Saturday’s explosive performance. That effort won’t be factored into the voting.
“That is stuff that is beyond my control, but God, I hope not or else these people are going to look really funny when the two guys go head-to-head and not only does the one guy win, but he wins in the most grandiose fashion in the history of the playoffs,” Ambrose said. “In the biggest stage in the biggest moment ever, when you have the complete and utterly perfect comparison, [where] one completely outshined the other, it’s not a question, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. Terrance West is the No. 1 player in the country. I’m saying it.”
Senior inside linebacker Monte Gaddis agreed, saying, “That’s the best running back in the nation – hands down. I believe he should win it.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun