In the FCS Huddle: Towson QBs offer different looks to NDSU

Philadelphia, PA ( - The game could change considerably whether Peter Athens or Connor Frazier is quarterbacking Towson against North Dakota State in the FCS championship game on Jan. 4.

North Dakota State is preparing to face both signal callers, and it just might come to that scenario.

While it's not quite Tony Romo will-he-or-won't-he play, the Towson quarterback situation regarding Athens' injured shoulder plays a big part in the championship game, especially if both quarterbacks see action and keep the Bison off balance with different looks.

Athens has started all 15 games for Towson (13-2), but he suffered a shoulder injury and missed the second half of the Tigers' semifinal-round win at Eastern Washington on Dec. 21. Frazier came off the bench to take the reins of the offense and was stellar on the Tigers' game-winning drive, which he capped with a 1-yard keeper with 17 seconds remaining to play.

Athens, a 6-foot-1, 209-pound redshirt senior, is more a pocket passer, having thrown for 3,194 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 64.6 percent of his pass attempts this season.

Frazier, a 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore, is more an athlete filling in wherever the Tigers need him, including quarterback. But he also has lined up as a running back, H-back and wide receiver this season.

He is 9-for-14 for 141 yards as a passer, while rushing for 212 yards (more than Athens) on 38 carries, with a touchdown in both the national quarterfinals against Eastern Illinois and the semifinals against Eastern Washington - the late game-winner. He also has caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown this season.

"I have no worries about that whatsoever," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said Friday of the quarterback situation. "If Connor is at the range, there is not a problem. If Pete's at the range, no. The way we structure practice, the way we've worked at this for the last however many months, no. This is one of the parts, the interchangeability, while we'd change a little bit on how we'd put Connor into the best position to be successful, no, there is no concern whatsoever on mine or anybody else's part.

Regardless of who is at the controls, Towson's offense will try to put the ball in the hands of junior running back Terrance West, who works behind a veteran, consistent offensive line. West has rushed for 2,416 yards and scored 41 touchdowns - both FCS single-season records.

Even with a healthy Athens, Towson will be facing a dominant NDSU defense.

The two-time reigning FCS champion Bison have run off 23 straight wins and 42 in their last 44 games behind the best defense in the nation. They have faced different types of quarterbacks and offenses, yet shut them down time and time again. They allow only 247.5 yards (No. 2 in the FCS) and 11.6 points (No. 1) per game.

"Well, first of all, you're facing a very formidable offense that's able to do a lot of different things. So whoever is at quarterback, they're an excellent offense," NDSU coach Craig Bohl said. "Obviously, any time you have two different guys in there, there are differences. However, I would say the differences are not as drastic as what you may see other teams that have two quarterbacks. I think both of these two guys are very, very capable.

"I know it was unfortunate for their starter to go down, but I understand nothing is broken, so he's going to have a shot to go out there and play and be a great challenge."