Eastern Washington had been there, done that so many times before.
Fourth-and-2 at the Towson 29, leading by three with a chance to wrap up the game with less than 100 seconds left on the clock.
In fact, quarterback Vernon Adams had done it early in the second half of Saturday’s FCS semifinal loss, hitting Ashton Clark for 39 yards for the biggest play in a scoring drive that got the Eagles back in the game.
But with a chance to put the game away, Adams found receiver Cooper Kupp wide open up the middle – and overthrew him by inches. The ball grazed off Kupp’s fingertips, Towson took over on downs and rallied for a 35-31 win.
“He was wide open, and I missed him,” Adams said. “I failed my team. He was wide open for the win.”
As he said those words in the postgame media conference, linebacker Cody McCarthy shook his head.
A moment later, Adams was asked to explain a failed fourth-and-goal chance in the dying seconds of the first half. Trailing 21-7 with 12 seconds left, the Eagles had third-and-goal at the Towson 1 – but no timeouts.
Adams rolled right, hesitated, then cut upfield, but was brought down by two Towson defenders, and the half was over.
“I was trying to score,” Adams said. “Coach (Beau) Baldwin told me right before just throw it away so we can come back on fourth down.
“But I saw a crease and didn’t get it, and I cost the team.”
McCarthy shook his head emphatically and responded.
“Vernon did not let this team down,” said McCarthy, who led the Eagles with 13 total tackles. “This man is a heckuva football player. The things he is able to do in incredible situations where most people can’t – he makes plays.
“He did not fail this team,” McCarthy said.
Against Towson, Adams had the fifth-best passing performance in his career – and 12th with at least 300 yards – with 390 yards on 28-of-42 passing. He had a pair of touchdown passes, finishing with 55 in 2013 to rank second in FCS history behind the record of 56 shared by Willie Totten (Mississippi Valley in 1984) and Bruce Eugene (Grambling in 2005).
“It is never one play, this way or the other,” Baldwin said. “It is a collective effort, and we go back and find plays where we could have done things better.
“That is the way we look at it,” Baldwin added.