On a cold, snowy night in Charleston, Ill., the No. 7 Towson Tigers advanced to the FCS national semifinals Friday night with a 49-39 upset win over No. 2 Eastern Illinois.
EIU took an early 14-0 lead, and with the home crowd behind the Panthers, it seemed the game could get out of hand. The Tigers battled back, though, and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-14 lead into the half.
The Panthers evened things up on their first drive of the third quarter, but Towson answered with a TD of its own to re-take the lead, and after another score from both sides, the Tigers carried a 35-24 lead into the final quarter. A 39-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Jeff LePak cut the deficit to 35-32 for Eastern Illinois, but rushing touchdowns from Darius Victor and Terrance West essentially put the game on ice.
Ryan Meyer rushed into the end zone with just over three minutes to go to cut Towson's lead to 10, but the Tigers recovered the ensuing onside kick to close things out.
West was just about unstoppable for Towson, carrying the football 39 times for 354 yards and five touchdowns. EIU just had no answer for him along the line.
The win moves Towson into the national semifinals. The Tigers will face the winner of the game between No. 3 Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State, which are set to square off on Saturday afternoon. The full tournament bracket can be found here.
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