By Matt Zenitz
Special to CSNbaltimore.com
In the locker room shortly after last weeks 56-42 win against No. 7 New Hampshire, it didnt come as much of a surprise to Towsons team when Tigers coach Rob Ambrose announced he was awarding his offensive game ball to freshman running back Terrance West.
It also came of no surprise to Ambrose when West, immediately upon receiving the ball, turned and handed it to senior right tackle Henry Glackin.
Despite having just rushed for 261 yards and four touchdowns in leading Towson (8-2, 6-1 CAA) to a pivotal win against the Wildcats, who entered the game as one of two teams tied with the Tigers for first place in the CAA, West, as he has been all season, was quick to deflect the credit, preferring instead to point towards the strong play of Towsons offensive line as being the catalyst for the win.
For a freshman, hes ridiculously humble, Ambrose said of West, who graduated from Northwestern High School in Baltimore. Any time we give him a game ball, he wont take it. Hell give it to the offensive line. He doesnt want to hear about the awards or accolades. He just wants to hear about us winning.
As much as that may be the case, though, its impossible to overlook the role the dynamic 5-foot-11, 222 pound West has played in the Tigers success this season, helping put Towson in a position to clinch both the CAA title as well as its first-ever FCS playoff berth with a win against Rhode Island in its regular season finale Saturday afternoon.
After seeing only a modest workload through the early part of the season, working amongst a deep and talented backfield, West has seen his workload increase during the last six games and, according to Ambrose, has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
West has rushed for 128 yards or more as well as two touchdowns or more in each of the six games, leading the Tigers to a 5-1 record during that span, in spite of each of the six games being against a ranked opponent.
During the six-game stretch, West has racked up outrageous totals of 888 yards and 20 touchdowns.
And despite rushing for more than 49 yards just once in the first four games, and scoring in only two of those games, West now leads the FCS in touchdowns (25) and ranks third in rushing (132.22 yards per game).
His 7.3 yards per carry ranks second in the nation.
New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, in his 13th season as the Wildcats head coach, said, Ive been in the CAA for a long time. Terrance West is something else. He has great cutback ability with excellent field vision.
Ambrose also praised Wests vision, as well as his power and quickness, but said one of the biggest surprises of the past six games has been Wests ability to run away from people in this league and hit the home run.
West has at least one run of 45 yards or more in four of the last five games, including each of the last three.
He broke off a 72-yard touchdown run on Towsons third play from scrimmage against New Hampshire and added a 69-yard scoring run during the third quarter.
But while Ambrose says West has obviously benefited from a rare combination of size, power and speed, he also says that West has been aided by an advanced level of maturity for a freshman, something which he attributes to West being older than the average college freshman.
West, who endured a long, frustrating process prior to finally arriving at Towson this past winter, will turn 21 in January.
A 2009 Northwestern graduate, West finished his high school career with nearly 5,000 rushing yards and looked to be bound for a high level NCAA Division I school out of high school, having garnered interest from programs like Notre Dame and Maryland, among others.
Instead, though, he wound up at Fork Union Military Academy as a result of low SAT scores.
Following a year at Fork Union, however, West once again appeared Division I bound. But after an opportunity with Clemson fell through at the last minute, and with it too late in the process to find another team prior to the start of the season, West was left without a team for the 2010 season.
His frustration didnt end there, though.
After talking to Marylands coaches during the fall, he was all set to walk on with the Terrapins following the 2010 season. But after head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired in December, West never heard from new coach Randy Edsall and that opportunity was suddenly gone as well.
Another potential opportunity at Morgan State fell through shortly after due to a paperwork issue.
Yet, just when West started to become pessimistic whether he would ever play football again, he came in contact with Towson during the early part of January, worked out for assistant coach James Vollono and joined the team as a walk-on later that month.
And after impressing coaches during the spring, West progressively earned playing time during the early part of the season, stepped into the primary ball-carrier role midway through the year and has spent the second half of the season establishing himself as one of the top offensive threats in the FCS.
Considering his journey, West said his success this season feels very good.
I came here with a lot of hunger built up in me, West said, and it just feels very good.
He added, though, But, right now, I really just want to get this win against Rhode Island Saturday, become CAA champions and then become national champions, too, because I know we have the ability to do that, too.