SMQB: EIU Edition
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel, TowsonTigers.com  
Release: 12/15/2013
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Eastern Illinois was the number two seed in the FCS playoffs, hosting an FCS quarterfinal game in the snow. The Panthers didn't have to make last-second travel plans, find hotels and buses. Like Towson, they had beaten an FBS team (San Diego State) and nearly beat another one (Northern Illinois). They had the nation's top quarterback in FCS in Jimmy Garoppolo, who is a Walter Peyton Award finalist.
 
All EIU to start
Garoppolo's Panther team was able to get off to a 14-0 lead and his offense looked unstoppable in the snow in Charleston, Ill. Towson's offense started with an atypical three-and-out and the next drive ended at the Eastern Illinois' eight-yard line when EIU stopped Towson on a fourth-and-two.
 
Those who have followed Towson football this year know the old saying, "it's not how you start, but how you finish" is extremely appropriate for the 2013 squad. After some adjustments on the defensive side in the second quarter, it was time to go into "Beast Mode."
 
Last week, Towson didn't need a great game from junior running back Terrance West to beat Fordham, 48-28, in their FCS playoff opener. He ran for a pedestrian 76 yards on 24 carries, but with the weather not cooperating on Friday with the passing game and injuries to junior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins and senior Leon Kinnard, it was time for West to step up.
 
TWest dominates
West not only stepped up, but his performance was epic. Along with maybe the most dominating game by a Towson offensive line in recent memory, West ran for an FCS-record 354 yards to break the record of 333 yards set by Adrian Peterson of Georgia Southern against UMass in 1999. That also broke Tony Vinson's single-season mark of 2,016 set in1994. West now has 2,295 yards and has a great chance to break Jamal Branch's FCS record of 2,326 yards set in 2003 with Colgate in 16 games.
 
Towson led 21-14 at the half, but Eastern Illinois tied it at 21-21 after a turnover and a Garoppolo one-yard run. That's when the "Beast" was unleashed as West made five rushes for 41 yards as the Tigers had their most important answer of the game to go up 28-21.
 
Frazier continues to contribute
Another key contributor to this game was Towson's unsung hero and sophomore quarterback Connor Frazier. Here's a player who was beaten out at quarterback by Peter Athens in summer camp and has done what the coaches asked of him. Whether it's holding for field goals and extra points, playing wide receiver and even punting, Frazier has excelled.
On Friday night, with conditions not always suitable for a wide-open passing game and with the Panthers' defense stacking the box to stop West, Frazier came up as the team's "wildcat quarterback." He ran for 40 yards on five carries including a four-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter.
 
The Tiger defense
Defensively, after a slow start, Towson made its presence known most of the night with some outstanding play from all three units, led by the senior linebacking trio. Eastern Illinois came into the game averaging 48.9 points per game and had scored 50 points or more in seven games. They also led NCAA FCS in total offense, averaging 595.5 yards per game.
 
Telvion Clark (15 tackles), Monte Gaddis (14 tackles, one sack) and Alexander DiSanzo (10 tackles) were all over the field, attempting to keep up with the Panthers' passing game on the snowy grounds of O'Brien Field and slow down the running game. While the defense did allow 511 total yards, it was able to hold Eastern Illinois to 10 points under its average.
 
The Tigers have answered all challenges so far this season. Whether it's going on the road and playing in the snow (winning 11 straight road games, to winning their first two FCS playoff games, or to trying to overcome key injuries, Towson has been a resilient squad. 
 
The Tigers' next challenge will take place at Eastern Washington on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. EST in the FCS semifinal on ESPNU.

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