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Mountaineers Win Fourth-Straight SoCon Title
Courtesy: Appalachian State Sports Information
Release: Saturday 11/15/2008 (ET)
Courtesy: Bill Sheffield
Ben Jorden (84) and Brian Quick (8) celebrate following one of the duo's two touchdowns on Saturday versus Elon

BOONE, N.C. No. 2 Appalachian State University became just the fourth program in Southern Conference history to win four-consecutive football championships with a 24-16 win over No. 11 Elon on Saturday afternoon at wintry Kidd Brewer Stadium.

With a steady rain-snow mix falling throughout the game and wind-chill factors dipping into the low 30s, Appalachian (9-2, 7-0 SoCon) scored the game’s final 10 points to thwart Elon’s bid for its first-ever SoCon title.

The Mountaineers started quickly, as tight end Ben Jorden caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Armanti Edwards 11 minutes into the game and Edwards found Matt Cline for a 33-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead.

However, Elon (8-3, 6-2 SoCon) stormed back to score the game’s next 16 points and take a two-point advantage early in the third period. The damage could have been even worse, but all-conference kicker Andrew Wilcox missed the extra point following Scott Riddle’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Hudgins that would have stretched the Phoenix lead to 17-14.

Elon’s only lead of the game lasted just 1:12, as Appalachian took the lead for good four plays later when Edwards found freshman Brian Quick for an acrobatic 22-yard touchdown connection that gave ASU the advantage back at 21-16.

With Edwards and starting running back Robert Welton both on the sideline with injuries, true freshman quarterback DeAndre Presley and reserve running back Josh Jackson led the Mountaineers on a 12-play, 68-yard drive that milked 5:46 off the clock, capped by Jason Vitaris (Seneca, S.C./Seneca) 24-yard field goal that extended the lead to 24-16 with 9:03 to play. Presley and Jackson accounted for all but four yards on the drive.

From there, the Black-and-Gold defense took over to seal the victory. Elon advanced the ball to near midfield on series following Vitaris’ field goal, but on fourth-and-one, true freshman defensive end Lanston Tanyi and sophomore linebacker D.J. Smith stuffed running back Brandon Newsome for no gain to stall the Phoenix drive. On its next possession, Elon drove all the way to the ASU 32, but Appalachian forced four-straight incomplete passes to take over with 38 seconds remaining.

One kneel by Presley later, the Mountaineers were celebrating their fourth-straight conference title and the SoCon’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division I Championship playoffs.

Edwards finished the day with 251 yards of total offense (147 passing, 104 rushing) and three touchdown passes. He is just 25 yards shy of becoming only the 26th player in NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision formerly Division I-AA) history with 10,000 yards of total offense in a career.

Defensively, the Apps were led by linebacker Jacque Roman’s 10 tackles and defensive end Jabari Fletcher’s two sacks and force fumble. Defensive back Mark LeGree notched his ninth interception of the season, which leads the nation and breaks the 45-year-old ASU single-season record set by Larry Harbin in 1963.

Appalachian limited Riddle, the SoCon’s leading passer, to just 196 yards on 20-of-39 attempts and Hudgins, the league’s all-time leader in receptions, to just three catches for 23 yards. Newsome rushed 25 times for 118 yards, but the Phoenix’s 16 points were its second-lowest output of the season.

Before it sets its sights on an unprecedented fourth-consecutive national championship, Appalachian looks to closes out its fourth-ever perfect SoCon campaign when it squares off with archrival Western Carolina next Saturday in Cullowhee, N.C. Kickoff for the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug is set for 3 p.m. The contest is slated to be televised on SportSouth.

NOTES: Edwards’ (hip) and Welton’s (shoulder) injuries will be re-evaluated on Sunday ... Edwards completed 12-of-14 passes without an interception to stretch his string of consecutive passes without an INT to 171 ... the SoCon single-season record is 203, set by Furman’s Braniff Bonaventure in 1996 ... Appalachian won for the 40th time in its last 41 home games ... the only other programs to ever win as many as four SoCon titles in a row were West Virginia (1953-56), Furman (1980-83) and Georgia Southern (1997-2002) ... ASU has won 13-straight over Elon ... Elon’s last win in the series came in 1964 ... ASU has won eight in a row overall and 11-straight in SoCon play ... Hudgins and The Citadel's Andre Roberts, the SoCon's only 1,000-yard receievers this season, combined for just 75 yards on nine catches versus the Mountaineers.

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