Towson at #2 Eastern Illinois 2013 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Game Breakdown

Towson at #2 Eastern Illinois 2013 FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Game Breakdown


#7 Towson at #2 Eastern Illinois  , Saturday, 8:00

For the first time in 29 years, the Towson football team won a playoff game.  The Tigers beat Fordham last week 48-28 behind the arm of senior QB Peter Athens.  With his two top receivers not playing, Athens stepped up and threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns on only 15 attempts.  Coming into the game with only 94 yards on the season, freshman Andre Dressenberg stepped up and caught three passes for 94 yards to lead the receivers.  Next up for Towson is an Eastern Illinois team that is on a roll.  The Panthers crushed Tennessee State 51-10 last week.  Senior QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 240 yards and three scores, while sophomore running back Shepard Little added 184 yards and two scores on the ground.  Only one time since Eastern Illinois suffered their only loss of the season against Northern Illinois has the Panthers margin of victory been less than 20 points.  They have won nine straight, scoring at least 50 points in six of those games. 

Both teams are no strangers to big games.  Towson opened the season with an upset of FBS Connecticut, while Eastern Illinois opened with a 40-19 beat down of San Diego State.  Each teams offense rank among the nations best, but they do it in different ways.  Towson likes to keep the ball on the ground.  The Tigers average 463 yards per game, getting 232.4 of them on the ground, both top 20 nationally.  Junior Terrance West has rushed for almost 2,000 yards this season to lead the offense.  Freshman Darius Victor, named the conference offensive player of the year, added 515 yards on the ground this year.  He stepped up last week against Fordham, rushing for 105 yards on 12 carries.  Peter Athens provides aerial support when called upon.  The senior has thrown for almost 3,000 yards this season.  His favorite targets are Leon Kinnard and Spencer Wilkins, who each have over 600 yards receiving.  The passing offense has been helped by the play of the offensive line, as they allow less than a sack per game.  The Tigers have been good in the clutch as well, ranking in the top 10 nationally in 3rd down conversion and 4th down conversion percentage.  Their Achilles heel has been turnovers.  The Tigers have committed 30 on the year, 12 interceptions and 18 fumbles.  Eastern Illinois, on the other hand, is a pass first offense.  The Panthers have the top total and scoring offense, led by a passing attack that averages 376.3 yards per game.  QB Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown for 4,729 yards and 51 touchdowns, both tops nationally.  He has a bevy of receivers at his disposal.  Two receivers, Erik Lora and Adam Drake, have over 1,000 yards receiving and have 18 and 13 touchdowns respectively.  A third receiver, Keiondre Gober, added 870 yards.  While the passing attack is their focus, the run game is also one of the nations best.  The Panthers average just over 219 yards per game, good for 19th nationally.  Shepard Little and Taylor Duncan lead the ground attack with 1,493 and 888 yards respectively.

In a game with two high-powered offenses, each defense will need to step up.  The Tigers have been solid on defense this season, ranking in the top 25 nationally in total defense.  They hold teams to an average of 111 yards per game, good for 9th nationally.  Senior LB Telvion Clark leads the defense with 116 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss.  They are at their best under pressure, allowing red zone points only 70 percent of the time, good for 9th nationally.  Towson has been good at forcing turnovers, with 30 total, but their offense has been good at giving it right back, with 30 themselves.  Eastern Illinois counters with a solid defense of their own.  They are a ball-hawking defense, leading the country in fumble recoveries with 21.  While their defense isn’t outstanding in one aspect, they do well as a whole, finishing in the top 40 in total defense and the top 20 in scoring defense.  Whichever defense steps up is going to win the game.  With such a powerful offense, Eastern Illinois should win this game.  Towson finds itself as one of the countries most penalized teams and that could be their undoing.  With the game being played at Eastern Illinois, one team will end up with a blemish on their record, as the Panthers haven’t lost at home, while the Tigers haven’t lost on the road.

Projected Score: Eastern Illinois 31, Towson 20


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