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In the FCS Huddle: Ride to a Towson title is West(bound)

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director/Senior Editor

Frisco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Eric Pike was searching, chuckling, beaming ... and ultimately speechless.

He had just asked been asked to describe the funny side of Towson's All- American running back Terrance West.

Tigers coach Rob Ambrose looked down toward Pike, the big left tackle who West works best behind. "There's a whole lot of tongue-biting going on right now," Ambrose said, revealing his own funny side.

Ironically, defensive players assigned to stopping West can only laugh about the absurdity of the task. On Saturday, it's North Dakota State's turn as the Tigers will try to ruin the Bison's perfect season and their bid for a third straight national title at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game hosted inside a sold-out Toyota Stadium (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Seventh-seeded Towson (13-2) will give the ball to West and make the top-seeded Bison (14-0) try to stop the 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior. It's been a nearly impossible assignment this season as West has rushed for 2,410 yards and scored 41 touchdowns (40 rushing) - all FCS single-season records. He averages 6.2 yards per carry.

"I don't think there's any back that we've seen to compare," North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl said. "He's got the dangerous combination of size and speed and change of direction. You have to look back through our record books several years in the (Missouri) Valley (Conference) to see anybody else who's played like that. I think there's been a couple of our players at tailback who are playing in the National Football League, and he certainly ranks among (the best). It's going to be a big challenge for us."

"There's a reason why he's declaring for the (NFL) draft early," NDSU defensive end Cole Jirik said, perhaps giving away what could be a foregone conclusion for West, who wouldn't need a senior season to be considered one of the all- time running backs in the FCS.

What makes West especially good, beyond his combination of size and speed, is his ability to read his blocks well and be a patient runner. He's anxious to get 30 carries in a game because at some point, the defense is likely going to slip up.

Maybe even one as good as North Dakota State, which for three seasons has been the best in the nation.

"It's a two-fold benefit for us," Ambrose said about opponents knowing the Towson game plan. "Everybody stocks the box. This isn't a secret, we play to run the football. It's the style of play. It kind of indicates the type of team we are. We're still going to do that no matter what.

"The good part about that is, if you really, really want to do it, and you think you got a chance to holding us down in the run game, (quarterback) Peter (Athens) and the wideouts are going to make you pay. That's just the way football is: you try to take one thing, another one will step up."

Athens, who suffered a shoulder sprain against Eastern Washington in the national semifinals, is "as close to perfect as he can get," Ambrose said - perhaps in a ploy - so North Dakota State will have to stay somewhat honest against the senior signal caller on Saturday.

Well, only somewhat. Everybody knows what Towson wants to do offensively.

"They know what's coming, you just have to stop it," a serious West said. "That's what it's going to come down to."

01/03 18:21:38 ET

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