A day after achieving the program's 10-win season since 1983, the Towson football team found another reward with the No. 7 seed and a first-round bye in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Sunday morning.
The Tigers (10-2) will not play at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson until Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. They will await the winner of Saturday's first-round game between Sacred Heart (10-2) and Fordham (11-1).
Coach Rob Ambrose said he felt confident that if Towson could defeat Colonial Athletic Association rival James Madison on Saturday -- as the team did with a 28-17 victory -- the NCAA selection committee would reward the Tigers.
"I figured that if we won 10, we would have a very good chance at a bye, and if we didn't get the 10th win, I thought there was a really good chance that we'd have to play somewhere this coming week," Ambrose said Sunday afternoon. "I'm happy for our guys. I'm happy for the players and the support staff. In truth, we've been doing this since February, and for them to be able to go home and enjoy and celebrate and relax on Thanksgiving with their own families, everybody needs that. It will be a great and refreshing way to get kickstarted into the next season."
The first-round bye will give the coaches a chance to scout both Sacred Heart and Fordham. More importantly, the break will give the players some time to recover from injuries.
"You have a better chance to be successful and make a run at the brass ring when you have that bye, because anybody that's in the playoffs clearly had a tough year and recovering from injury is helpful," Ambrose said. "It's a physical game. We haven't talked about this at all, but I've got 15 guys with season-ending injuries, and of those 15 guys, I think 12 or 13 were either starters or players. Those are just the guys whose seasons are over. No bye week is going to get them back. They need months of recovery. So the guys that have to step up, it's a battle of attrition. They're doing a yeoman effort of getting that done, but yeah, our injury report looks like a MASH unit right now."
Minutes after the 24-team field was unveiled Sunday on ESPNU, Craig Haubert, the network's national recruiting analyst, picked Towson to advance to the national semifinals, but fall to No. 3 seed Eastern Washington (10-2). Ambrose agreed with Haubert's prediction -- with one caveat.
"He thinks we can be successful, but I was extremely disappointed that he called it 'Townson,'" Ambrose said. "I would think that you would be able to pronounce it the right way. But let's put it this way: I would much rather have our name in the bright lights with such great respect nationally even if the guy is mispronouncing it. We're moving in the right way."