GREENVILLE, S.C. ?€“ For the fourth-straight year, it came right down to the wire, but for the first time in that span, Furman prevailed over Appalachian State University, as the No. 6 Paladins blocked a field goal as time expired to slip past the 16th-ranked Mountaineers, 34-31, on Saturday at Paladin Stadium.
Furman took the three-point lead with just 31 seconds remaining, when quarterback Ingle Martin found Patrick Sprague for a six-yard touchdown pass to cap a 14-play, 74-yard 4:26 drive. The drive was marked by a pair of costly Appalachian penalties, including a close third-down pass interference call and an offsides infraction that gave the Paladins a first down with just over a minute to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jermane Little broke off a 46-yard return to give ASU great field position at their own 46. From there, Walter Payton Award candidate Richie Williams drove the Mountaineers 31 yards in just 23 seconds, including a 17-yard rush and eight- and six-yard completions to Little and Hans Batichon, that put the Apps on the Furman 23 yard line with three seconds to play.
On the drive, Williams became ASU's all-time leader in total offense, as he ran his career total to 7,137 yards, surpassing the 7,129 yards racked up by current Appalachian Sports Network analyst Steve Brown from 1977-80. For the day, Williams posted a season-high 396 total yards (272 passing, 124 rushing) to become only the second Mountaineer to record 6,000 passing yards and 7,000 yards of total offense in a career (joining Brown).
Despite Williams' heroics, Furman's William Freeman came free up the middle on Julian Rauch's 41-yard field-goal attempt and blocked it to secure FU's first win over Appalachian since 2001. Even with the block, the kick fell just short of the goal post.
Appalachian fought back from a nine-point deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 31-26 lead. A 20-yard strike from Williams to tight end Daniel Bettis with 11:58 to go began the rally and an acrobatic 31-yard touchdown catch by Batichon gave the Apps the five-point advantage with 5:02 left in the ballgame.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, as the teams traded scores, with a 60-yard connection from Martin to Daric Carter with 14 seconds remaining in the second quarter giving Furman a 16-14 halftime lead. A pair of Kevin Richardson touchdown runs, from 27 and three yards out, accounted for ASU's scoring in the opening half.
The squads traded field goals in the third quarter before a 14-yard rush by Cedrick Gipson gave Furman a 26-17 lead heading into the wild fourth period.
In all, the two teams combined for 896 yards of offense and didn't commit a turnover. The effort marked Williams' fifth-straight game without an interception, running his streak of consecutive pass attempts without being picked off to 175, just 40 short of the Southern Conference record.
Despite the loss, Appalachian (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) is tied with Furman (5-1, 1-1 SoCon) and two other teams for third place in the conference standings, only a game behind ASU's next two opponents: Georgia Southern (4-2, 3-1 SoCon) and a half-game behind Wofford (3-2, 2-1 SoCon).
The Mountaineers return home next Saturday to face Georgia Southern, with first place in the SoCon on the line. Black Saturday kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium, with the contest televised on Fox Sports Net South and Fox College Sports.