Rob Ambrose is one of the first to admit that no one will remember that Towson had the ball and a chance to tie the score late in the fourth quarter of Saturday's season-opening 28-20 loss at East Carolina.
But after a 2014 campaign in which the Tigers stumbled to a 4-8 overall record and a 2-6 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association, Ambrose was pleased to see how competitive this year's squad was against a Pirates program that has played in bowl games in the last three seasons under coach Ruffin McNeill.
"We're using the term 'almost,'" the seventh-year coach said Monday afternoon during a conference call organized by the CAA. "We were almost there, we almost had done enough to roll this rock over the top of the mountain. It shows they put a lot of good work in together, that they're close together, that they're not intimidated together, that they can be a force when they're together. They just need to finish it, and it's something to build on.
"Twenty years from now, nobody's going to care that this was a close win and nobody's going to care that we were in the red zone in the fourth quarter and nobody's going to care that we missed two scoring opportunities in the red zone or that we turned the ball over on a big-play kind of thing. Nobody's going to care about that. It's just going to say 'loss.' But for what these kids are learning about themselves and us as a program, I think it was as beneficial of an experience as it can be in a loss."
Ambrose did take issue with what he viewed as a non-call that contributed to the setback. On fourth down-and-7 at the Pirates' 16-yard line with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, redshirt senior quarterback Connor Frazier found redshirt senior wide receiver Brian Dowling on a slant over the middle of the field.
Dowling was promptly hit by junior strong safety Terrell Richardson and lost the football. But Ambrose argued vociferously with officials that Richardson should have been penalized for targeting.
"I think on the replay that was shown in the stadium, there's not a soul there that did not believe that was targeting," said Ambrose, who was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his animated discussion with officials. "As a matter of fact, not a soul there that did not believe that was the textbook definition of targeting."
But Ambrose was quick to put the matter behind him.