No. 5 TIGERS VISIT No. 2 EASTERN ILLINOIS IN FCS QUARTER-FINALS
Tigers, Panthers To Vie For Spot in FCS Semi-Finals
TOWSON, Md. – Coming off an impressive 48-28 victory over Fordham University in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs, Coach Rob Ambrose and the fifth-ranked Towson University football team will travel to No. 2 Eastern Illinois on Friday, Dec. 13 in one of the FCS quarter-final games. Kickoff at O’Brien Field is set for 8:00 p.m. (EST)
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Anish Shroff and Kelly Stouffer calling the action while Brooke Weisbrod serves as the sideline reporter.
The Tigers, who are 11-2 on the season, will be seeking their 11th consecutive road victory when they visit O’Brien Field. During the 2013 season, Towson had the best road record in NCAA FCS with a 7-0 mark. No. 1 North Dakota State and Harvard were 5-0 on the road.
The NCAA FCS quarter-final game will also be a matchup of two of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, junior running back Terrance West (Northeast H.S./Baltimore, Md.) of Towson and senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois. West and Garoppolo will be in Philadelphia on Monday evening when the winner of the Walter Payton award is announced.
The Panthers run a fast-paced offense that has compiled some very impressive numbers this season. Garoppolo has thrown 51 touchdown passes and has thrown for 4,729 yards.
Eastern Illinois leads NCAA FCS in scoring, averaging 48.9 points per game. The Panthers have scored at least 34 points in every game this season. Eastern Illinois has topped the 50-point mark seven times in 13 games. Eastern Illinois also leads NCAA FCS in total offense, averaging 595.5 yards per game.
While Eastern Illinois enjoys very quick scoring drives, the Tigers have relied on a solid ground game. Towson is averaging 231.6 rushing yards per game and have scored a school record 44 rushing touchdowns.
West leads the Tiger offense, averaging an FCS-leading 149.3 rushing yards per game. He also leads all of college football with 34 total touchdowns, including 33 rushing TD’s. He is five touchdowns shy of matching the NCAA FCS record for touchdowns scored in a season. Former All-American running back Omar Cuff of Delaware scored 39 touchdowns in 2007.
Last week, freshman Darius Victor (Northwestern H.S./Hyattsville, Md.) turned in a career high performance in the Tigers’ win over Fordham. Victor ran for a career high 105 yards on 12 carries and scored a rushing touchdown. He also scored a 41-yard touchdown on a screen pass to give Towson a 21-7 first half lead.
Senior quarterback Peter Athens (Huntingtown H.S./Huntingtown, Md.) had one of the best games of his college career against Fordham. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 301 yards and a career high three touchdowns. Athens, who has completed 212 of 331 passes for 2,935 yards and 17 touchdowns, ranks third in the Colonial Athletic Association in passing efficiency.
Over the last few weeks, Athens has been working with a new group of receivers since injuries to Spencer Wilkins (Mount Hebron H.S./Ellicott City, Md.) and Leon Kinnard (Loyola Blakefield H.S./Reisterstown, Md.) ended their seasons prematurely. Freshman Andre Dessenberg (Ocean Lakes H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.) responded with a big game against Fordham. He caught three passes for 94 yards and caught a 46-yard touchdown pass on a play where the Fordham defensive back was penalized for pass interference.
In the win over Fordham, Athens completed passes to eight different receivers.
The Tiger defense is facing a tough challenge this week against Eastern Illinois. Both of the Tiger cornerbacks, senior Jordan Love (Deep Run H.S./Washington, D.C.) and junior Tye Smith (Wakefield H.S./Raleigh, N.C.) have played very well this season. Love, who has 51 tackles, has broken up nine passes and earned All-CAA first team honors. A second team All-CAA selection, Smith has made 87 tackles and has broken up 11 passes.
A first team All-CAA selection, sophomore Christian Carpenter (Aberdeen H.S./Aberdeen, Md.) has made 75 tackles in 11 games. He is second on the team with three interceptions and has recovered two fumbles. The Tigers’ other safety, sophomore Donnell Lewis (Woodside H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.), was the CAA Defensive Player of the Week twice this season. He leads the team with four interceptions and has scored two touchdowns on defense. With 75 tackles, Lewis is tied for fourth on the team.
Senior linebackers Telvion Clark (Granby H.S./Norfolk, Va.) and Monte Gaddis (Cleveland Central Catholic H.S./Cleveland, Ohio) are the Tigers’ leading tacklers. Clark leads the team with 116 tackles, including 10.5 for lost yardage. A first team All-CAA selection, Clark was the CAA Defensive Player of the Week twice this season. He leads the CAA with five forced fumbles and he is tied for the CAA lead with three fumble recoveries.
Gaddis, a second team All-CAA selection, is second on the team with 96 tackles. He also has two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Strangely enough, these two programs are complete strangers from each other. Towson has never played Eastern Illinois and the Tigers have never played any team from the Ohio Valley Conference. Likewise, Eastern Illinois has never played any teams from the Colonial Athletic Association.
The winner of the Towson-Eastern Illinois game will face the winner of the game between Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State in the semi-finals.