Eric Peterson, Published January 03 2014
Shoulder pain won’t stop Towson University QB Athens from playing
“If I feel I was going to be detrimental to the team, then I don’t think I would want to be out there to play,” Athens said. “I’m ready to go and I’m excited.”
The Tigers (13-2) play No. 1-ranked and unbeaten North Dakota State at 1 p.m. today for the NCAA Division I FCS national championship. The Bison (14-0) have a chance to win a third consecutive national crown.
Athens started all 15 games this season for the Tigers, but injured his throwing shoulder in the first half of the national semifinals at Eastern Washington two weekends ago. Athens said it was initially feared he may have broken his collarbone, but was eventually diagnosed with an AC joint sprain.
“I thought I was done,” Athens said. “I’m happy we had two weeks to get my shoulder a little better.”
Athens has completed 228 of 353 passes (65 percent) for 3,194 yards and 19 touchdowns heading into the title game. He’s averaging 212.9 passing yards per game.
“He’s close to perfect as he can get,” Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. “I don’t have any question about his ability to play (today), and more importantly, he doesn’t have any question about his ability to play.”
Sophomore Connor Frazier came on in relief of Athens in the semifinals. Frazier, who also plays wide receiver, completed 6 of 10 passes for 98 yards in the game. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 17 seconds to play in the 35-31 victory. The Tigers scored the game’s final 14 points.
“We’ve been preparing the same (way) we have all year,” Frazier said. “Nothing has really changed.”
Ambrose said he expects both Athens and Frazier to take snaps in the championship game against the Bison.
“Having Pete back at the helm completely will be business as usual,” Ambrose said. “They will both play like they always do.”
Athens quarterbacks an offense that is averaging 38.5 points per game this season matched up against an NDSU defense that is holding teams to 11.6 points per game.
“They’re a great defense,” Athens said of the Bison. “They play great team defense. They don’t have that one guy who tries to make a play that puts them out of position.”
Athens said once the game starts, he won’t be worried about his shoulder.
“If I worry about that, that’s just not smart on my part,” Athens said. “If something happens, Connor will do a great job filling the role he needs to. I know my offensive line will block for me.”
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