FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Three years after winning only one game, Towson came up one victory short of a national championship.
Like everybody else this season, the Tigers couldn't beat North Dakota State.
"We lost the day, but we won the year," fifth-year coach Rob Ambrose said. "It goes back farther than three ago. It was blowout losses, and then it was three-point losses and four-point losses to nationally ranked teams. We've been building this since Day 1 and the construction project is not over. We're not there yet, but we're certainly getting there."
Brock Jensen and the Bison got their perfect ending, capping a 15-0 season Saturday with a 35-7 victory for their third consecutive FCS championship. It was coach Craig Bohl's final game at the school.
Terrance West ran 3 yards on the final play of the first quarter for Towson's only touchdown, his 41st TD rushing and 42nd overall this season. He finished with 22 carries for 99 yards, pushing his season total to 2,509 — the most ever by an FCS player.
Towson (13-3) was lined up for what would have been a go-ahead field goal in the second quarter, but D.J. Soven's 41-yard attempt was blocked. The ball was scooped up by Kyle Emanuel and returned 59 yards to the 5. That set up Ryan Smith's TD run on the next play that made it 14-7, and was the first of three consecutive possessions when the Bison scored touchdowns.
"A legitimate 10-point swing," Ambrose said. "We made a mistake, and they made us pay for it."
The Tigers, the first school to play in championship games at the FCS and NCAA Division III levels, were held to their lowest scoring total since a 28-3 loss at Maryland four games into the 2011 season.
West didn't participate in the postgame interview session, but Ambrose said he and the junior running back had agreed to sit down after getting home to talk about his future and whether he'd return for his senior season or bypass that for early entry in the NFL draft.
Towson played without cornerback Jordan Love and tight end James Oboh after the senior starters were suspended for unspecified violations of NCAA rules. School officials gave no other information, including details about what led to the suspensions.
Jensen, who has an FCS quarterback-record 48 victories, threw a touchdown pass and was one of four North Dakota State players who ran for scores.
The Bison joined Appalachian State (2005-07) as the only FCS teams to win three consecutive championships. They are the first undefeated champs at that level since Marshall in 1996, the year before the Thundering Herd moved to Division I.
Bohl last month accepted the job as Wyoming's coach, but stayed with the Bison for their playoff run. He finished 104-32 in 11 seasons at North Dakota State, which has won 24 consecutive games to match the FCS record.
This was the fourth consecutive year the title game was played in the professional soccer stadium in North Texas, but this game was plagued by problems with the grass turf. During each timeout, groups of workers and volunteers had to pat down chunks of turf that were coming up during play.
Nick Shafer, the stadium's vice president of operations, said in a statement that the turf between the hash marks was replaced Nov. 18. Soon after that, the area was hit by an extended stretch of unusual freezing weather and ice sat on the field for a week. Shafer says that "prevented the grass from taking root underneath the turf."
Players from both teams clearly were having problems at times with footing. The most obvious was Towson running back Darius Victor falling down behind the line for a 3-yard loss after stepping into one of the divots, two plays before the blocked field goal.
"In the end we've played in snow, red turf, busted turf, you name it," Ambrose said. "It doesn't matter."