After a season of starting slowly and finishing well, Towson did almost the opposite Saturday against Eastern Washington.
“We finally got the ball first and scored first,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said.
“It was an adaptation for the entire team,” said Ambrose, whose team led 21-0 before Eastern rallied.
Going into Saturday’s game, the Tigers had been outscored 123-68 in the first quarter before pouring it on in the middle quarters.
“It was great to be successful right out of the gate,” Ambrose said.
Meanwhile, the Eagles had their second awful start in an FCS football semifinal. A year ago, the Eagles trailed Sam Houston State 35-0 at halftime before losing 45-42.
After cutting the deficit to 21-7 in the second quarter, they continued their season-long dominance in the third.
Towson had outscored opponents 144-34 in the third this season, but Eastern turned the tables with a 17-0 run that gave them a 24-21 lead.
“We came in at halftime, the coaches talked to us, and we made a few adjustments,” Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams said.
“We were seeing everything we saw on film. We just had to come out and execute. Our defense came out got some stops, and we finally started rolling on offense.”
Eastern had a 179-53 advantage in the third quarter this season, including a dominating 130-9 margin in the last eight games. In those eight games, EWU allowed only third-quarter field goals to Idaho State on Nov. 2, South Dakota State on Dec. 7 and Jacksonville State on Dec. 14. Eastern hadn’t allowed a third-quarter touchdown since Oct. 12 versus North Dakota.
The Eagles did a creditable job against FCS rushing leader Terrance West, holding him to 115 yards a week after he went off for 356 in a quarterfinal win at Eastern Illinois.
“That’s just a part of the game,” said West. “You’re not going to have a lot of big runs, you just have to take what they give you, and that’s what I did today.”
Saturday’s effort gave West 2,410 yards for the season and broke the FCS record of 2,326 yards set by Jamal Branch of Colgate in 2003.
West helped the Tigers’ late comeback with a 3-yard scoring run with 5:09 to play, narrowing the deficit to 31-28.
Big day for Clark
In his final game as an Eagle, senior captain Ashton Clark caught eight passes for 129 yards, both game highs.
The biggest was a 39-yard reception on fourth-and-2 from midfield early in the second half to set up a 7-yard scoring run by Quincy Forte.
In his last two games, Clark had 18 catches for 301 yards to give him five 100-yard games this season.