Eastern fell short to Towson 35-31 in semis

Eastern fell short to Towson 35-31 in semis

By Erika Meyer, Sports Writer

It was a heartbreaking loss for No. 3 ranked Eastern Eagles as No. 5 ranked Towson Tigers gave the Eagles their first loss at home.

The game of football is not over until the last whistle blows, and that is what the Tigers proved to Eastern on Dec. 21 at Roos Field in the FCS semifinal matchup.

“Today was two great teams, and it comes down to inches sometimes,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Definitely when you are in the semifinals.”

Towson started early as they jumped up to 14-0 in the first quarter after a fumble by Eastern at the Tiger 12 yard line. The Eagles could not capitalized on either side of the ball and fell behind 21-0 going into the second quarter.

The Eagles finally got on the board in the second quarter with an eight-yard touchdown pass from the Walter Payton runner-up sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams to junior running back Quincy Forte to cut the Tigers lead 21-7.

Towards the end of the first half, with 12 seconds left, Eastern was inside the red zone but fell short and was stopped at the one-yard line.

Going into the third quarter, the Eagles scored 17 straight points to finally get their first lead of the game and held the Tigers scoreless 24-21. Capping off this lead with two running touchdowns by Forte and junior running back Mario Brown, with a 22-yard field goal by senior kicker Kevin Miller.

Eastern would score their last touchdown early in the fourth quarter with a diving catch by junior wide receiver Cory Mitchell to put the Eagles up by 10 with a score of 31-21.

Eastern would not keep their 10 point lead very long as Towson answered back with less than five minutes to go, and cut the Eagles lead by three.

As Baldwin mentioned, the game was in inches, The Eagles were in a fourth-and-two situation at the Towson 29-yard line and went for it. Adams over-threw the pass to Jerry Rice Award winner and redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp, which could have ended the game with an Eastern victory.

“He was wide open and I missed him,” said Adams. “He was wide open for the win.”

With 3:34 left in the game, the Tigers drove all the way down from their own 29-yard line for the winning drive with a one-yard run by Towson running back Terrance West with 19 seconds left.

West finished out with 27 carries for 115 yard and two touchdowns.

“This is a very tight-knit group, and I think that stands for why we’re going to play in the national championship,” said Towson quarterback Connor Frazier.

Frazier completed six of his passes out of 10 attempts for 98 yards, and is the back-up quarterback for the Tigers. He was brought in due to Peter Athens going out with a shoulder injury in the second quarter.

Adams completed 28 of his passed out of 42 attempts for 394 yard and two touchdowns. Those two touchdown passes put him at 55 for the year and he is now ranked second in FCS history the record is 56.

EWU senior wide receiver Ashton Clark had eight catches for 129 yards, and Kupp closely followed with eight catches for 124 yards. Kupp owns the FCS record for receiving yards by a freshman with 1,691 and 93 receptions.

Junior linebacker Cody McCarthy led the Eagles with 13 tackles, and senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin finished with 11.

“Vernon did not let this team down,” said McCarthy. “Towson is a good team, and they left it out on the field. Adams is a heck of a football player.”

For the second straight season, Eastern will end their season at Roos Field in the semifinals.  The Eagles have finished their season with a 12-3 record and many starting returners back in the roster.

“I congratulate Towson. They came here, played a great football game and it turned out to be a battle that came down to the wire,” said Baldwin. “You credit them, and we hold our heads up high knowing we are going to continue to come back fighting, and I am so proud of this 2013 team.”