West romps to record, leads Towson past EIU, 49-39

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm •  Published: December 13, 2013

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — After he walked off the snow-covered field at Eastern Illinois Friday night, Towson running back Terrance West said he was pretty sure he'd never played a game quite like this one.

Snow, sleet, rain and 30-degree temperatures.

And he had no idea just how well he'd handled it.

West ran for 356 yards and five touchdowns on 39n carries, leading the Tigers (12-2) to a 49-39 win over the Panthers (12-2) and a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

Along the way he set a new FCS playoff record for rushing yards, something he had no idea he'd done until he was asked about it after the game.

"I did?" he asked in disbelief, explaining nonetheless that he pictured himself having a big night. "If you picture big plays, you make big plays. So I was picturing."

What Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers watched wasn't what he had in mind.

"I just thought this was the team of destiny. I really did," he said.

"I can take (West's) big plays," he added. "It's all his little plays. You hit him and he keeps moving forward."

Early in the fourth quarter, the game started to feel like it belonged to the Tigers.

They had an 11-point lead at 35-24 on West's fourth touchdown of the night, a 5-yard run that ended with a dive across the goal line.

The Towson defense had found a way to quiet Eastern Illinois' passing attack, keying on wide receiver Erik Lora and limiting him to short dinks and dunks from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

And the Panther crowd, chilled by two and a half hours in the cold, had gone quiet.

Faced with what felt like a must-score situation, though, Garoppolo led the Panthers back into the game, finding Jeff LePak wide open in the Towson end zone for a 39-yard touchdown. The junior receiver was 15 yards clear of any defender when Garoppolo spotted him and launched the ball.

Then the quarterback slipped the ball into a well-covered Lora's hands just inside the end zone for two points and, suddenly, the Panthers were back within striking distance, down 35-32 with 14:35 to play.

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