Frazier Leads Towson to FCS Championship Game
CHENEY, Wash. (Dec. 21, 2013) – Trailing by 31-21 with less than six minutes remaining, reserve quarterback Connor Frazier led a stirring comeback to lead No. 5, Towson University (13-2) to a 35-31 win over No. 3 Eastern Washington (12-3) in the NCAA FCS semi-finals at Roos Field on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers advanced to the NCAA FCS championship game on Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas. It will be the first-ever appearance for Towson in the FCS championship game.
Trailing by 31-21 midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers marched 75 yards in 15 plays. On fourth-and-goal at the Eastern Washington three-yard line, junior Terrance West ran to his left, stopped and reversed field. He broke two tackles on his way to the end zone as he scored his second touchdown of the game. His touchdown cut the Tigers’ deficit to 31-28 with 5:09 left in the game.
The Eagles, who rolled up 580 yards of total offense, drove the ball deep into Towson territory. Facing fourth down-and-two at the Towson 29-yard line, the Eagles went for the first down as quarterback Vernon Adams tried to connect with freshman wide receiver Cooper Kupp for a big play. However, the pass was just beyond his Kupp’s reach and the Tigers took over at their own 29-yard line with 1:35 remaining in the game.
Frazier, who entered the game when senior quarterback Peter Athens was injured, proceeded to direct a 71-yard. 10-play drive. On the drive, Frazier completed all five pass attempts for 48 yards. His 22-yard completion to Brian Dowling gave the Tigers a first down at the Eagles’ 34-yard line. Four plays later, Frazier scrambled to the Eagles’ one-yard line with 25 seconds left. After West was tackled for no gain on first down, Frazier scored on a quarterback sneak with 17 seconds left to put the Tigers ahead. Drew Evangelista’s conversion gave Towson a 35-31 advantage.
On the Eagles’ first play after the kickoff, Adams threw a deep pass that was intercepted by Christian Carpenter at the Tigers’ 24-yard line, touching off a wild celebration on the Tiger sidelines.
“From the most difficult circumstances come the best stories,” said Coach Rob Ambrose. “I am numb right now. This team has shown that you can accomplish things no one thought you could with belief, faith, trust, love and hard work.”
In truth, the Towson-Eastern Washington game was three games rolled into one. In the first game, Towson jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. Then, Eastern Washington scored 31 consecutive points to take a 31-21 lead with 11:55 remaining in the game. In the third game, Towson scored twice in the last 5:09 to win the game.
“I think it was shock to us when we lost Peter (Athens) to that injury,” said Ambrose. “It took us a while to adjust. Eastern Washington is an excellent football team. But, we never quit and we found a way to win.”
Early on, it appeared that the Tigers might roll to an easy win.
On their opening drive, the Tigers marched 75 yards on nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. On the Tigers’ first drive, West ran for 45 yards on five carries as he broke the NCAA FCS single season rushing record held by Jamaal Branch of Colgate. The Tigers took the early lead when Athens threw a one-yard pass to fullback Emmanuel Holder, putting the Tigers ahead with 10:29 left in the first quarter.
On their first possession, Adams completed a 29-yard pass to Kupp, who fumbled at the Towson 12-yard line. When junior cornerback Tye Smith recovered, the Tigers took over.
The Tigers came up the first big play of the game when Frazier, who was playing wide receiver, completed a 50-yard pass to Derrick Joseph on an end around play. When West scored on a one-yard run, the Tigers took a 14-0 on an 88-yard, eight-play drive with 4:40 left in the first quarter.
It was West’s 40th touchdown of the season, setting an NCAA FCS single season record.
After their best first quarter of the season, the Tigers added to their lead early in the second quarter. A 36-yard pass from Athens to Andre Dessenberg gave Towson a first down at the Eagles’ 45-yard line. Facing a fourth down-and-three at the Eagles’ 38-yard line, Athens rolled to his right and fired a 38-yard touchdown pass to Dowling. That gave Towson a 21-0 lead with 10:32 left in the first half.
The Eagles responded with their best drive of the game. They marched 67 yards on seven plays and got on the scoreboard when Quincy Forte caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Adams to cut their deficit to 21-7 with 7:41 left in the half.
Late in the first half, the biggest play of the game may have occurred. The Tigers reached the Eagles’ 29-yard line when Athens fumbled a shotgun snap. The Eagles recovered but Athens left the game with a shoulder injury.
Just before halftime, the Eagles drove to deep in Towson territory. With 11 seconds left in the half and the ball on the Towson one-yard line, the Eagles took their final time-out. Adams tried to score on a run off the right side but Telvion Clark and Donnell Lewis stopped him short of the goal line and the Tigers went into halftime with a 21-7 lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Eagles cut their deficit to 21-14 as they marched 92 yards in 10 plays. On fourth down-and-two at the Towson 46-yard line, Adams completed a 39-yard pass to Ashton Clark, moving the ball to the Towson seven-yard line. On the next play, Forte scored his second touchdown of the game on a seven-yard run. Kevin Miller’s conversion kick cut the Eagles’ deficit to 21-14 with 11:34 left in the third quarter.
With Frazier at quarterback, the Tigers moved to the Eagles’ 49-yard line where the drive stalled. The Eagles took over after a punt at their own nine-yard line. Once again, Adams directed an efficient drive. Facing a fourth-and-two at the Towson 22-yard line, Adams ran for a first down. Eastern Washington moved inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line where the drive stalled. A 22-yard field goal by Miller cut the Towson lead to 21-17 with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
On their next drive, the Tigers were forced to punt. A punt by Evangelista was blocked by Zach Wimberly and Eastern Washington took possession at the Towson 23-yard line.
Two plays later, Mario Brown scored on a three-yard run to give the Eagles their first lead of the game, a 24-21 advantage.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles extended their lead to 31-21 when they marched 82 yards in nine plays. A 13-yard pass from Adams to Cory Mitchell gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the game, setting the stage for the Tigers’ comeback.
Adams, who was the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, completed 28 of 42 passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 65 yards on 11 carries. Forte ran for 77 yards on 14 carries and scored one rushing touchdown.
Clark led the Eagles with eight catches for 129 yards while Cupp had eight receptions for 124 yards.
Playing most of the first half, Athens completed eight of nine passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
In the longest playing stint of his career, Frazier ran for a career high 98 yards on 18 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown. West had 115 yards on 27 carries and scored twice.
West set two NCAA FCS season records in the win. He now holds the FCS record with 2,410 yards on 391 carries. His 41 touchdowns are also a national record.
Dowling, a transfer from the University of Massachusetts, had a career high four receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore safety Donnell Lewis led the Tiger defense with 10 tackles and a forced fumble.
For the Tigers, the victory marked their 12th consecutive road win. Towson has not lost a road game since Oct. 6, 2012.
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