BOONE, N.C. ?€“ Sophomore Kevin Richardson ran for 208 yards to headline an all-around impressive performance by No. 19 Appalachian State University in a convincing 24-7 victory over No. 16 Georgia Southern before 21,486 fans on a picture-perfect fall afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Richardson's 208 rushing yards were the most by a Southern Conference player since ASU's Jimmy Watkins registered 216 yards on the ground in a NCAA I-AA playoff victory over William & Mary in 2001. Richardson also caught six passes for a career-high 77 yards, giving him 285 all-purpose yards on the afternoon, the most in the SoCon this season.
Despite Richardson's heroics, the story of the game may have been the job Appalachian's defense did against Georgia Southern's high-powered rushing attack. The Eagles came into the contest with the nation's top rushing average at 378.5 yards per game, but managed just 271 yards on 58 attempts on Saturday, with 36 of those yards coming on a fake punt in the first quarter. Fullback Jermaine Austin, who came into the game with a conference-leading 784 rushing yards, was held to just 72 yards on 19 carries (3.8 yards per rush), while quarterback Jayson Foster, who was second in the league with 783 rushing yards, gained just 54 yards on 20 carries (2.7 per rush).
The defensive effort also contributed to ASU's first two scores, as a three-and-out on GSU's first series and a 34-yard interception return by Justin Woazeah on the the Eagles' next possession led to the Apps grabbing an early 10-0 lead. Julian Rauch booted a 37-yard field goal and freshman Trey Hennessee scored from a yard out to cap a 31-yard drive following Woazeah's interception to give Appalachian the 10-point advantage just 11:30 into the contest.
Richardson made his presence known on Appalachian's first drive of the second quarter, as he broke off a career-long 73-yard run to set up a two-yard touchdown plunge and give ASU a 17-0 lead.
It appeared as though the Mountaineers would stretch the advantage to 24-0 heading into halftime, but Walter Payton Award candidate Richie Williams threw his first interception of the season on the last play of the half to stymie an ASU drive at the one-yard line. The interception was Williams' first in 186 attempts, a streak that fell just 29 short of a SoCon record.
However, Williams and the Apps made up for the miscue by taking the second-half kickoff and marching 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by Hennessee's second one-yard touchdown run of the game that gave ASU a 24-0 lead less than five minutes into the third period.
From there, Appalachian (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) cruised to the victory, thanks to Richardson gaining 148 of his 285 all-purpose yards and the defense holding Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-2 SoCon) to just 128 yards of offense in the second half. The Eagles scored their only points of the ballgame on a three-yard run by Foster with 3:20 to go in the third quarter. GSU's seven points matched the fewest it has scored in a game in the past 10 seasons.
In all, the Mountaineers outgained the Eagles 457-276, including a 296-252 advantage in rushing yards and a 161-24 advantage through the air.
Williams, who broke Appalachian's career total-offense mark last week, added 243 more yards to that total with 161 yards on 13-of-20 passing and 82 yards on 18 rushes.
Defensively, safety Jeremy Wiggins' 13 tackles led nine Mountaineers with at least six stops.
The victory extended ASU's home winning streaks to 14-straight regular-season games and 13 games overall, both school records. Georgia Southern became the first team to fall twice at Kidd Brewer Stadium during the run, which dates back to the 2002 season.
Combined with a SoCon home-opening record attendance of 23,267 on Sept. 17 versus Coastal Carolina, Saturday's overflow crowd marked the first time since 1992 that Appalachian has drawn more than 20,000 fans for back-to-back home games.
Appalachian's triumph also left it in a three-way tie atop the SoCon standings with No. 5 Furman (6-1, 2-1 SoCon), who edged The Citadel, 39-31, in triple overtime on Saturday, and ASU's next opponent, Wofford (4-2, 2-1 SoCon). The three-way tie could become a four-way deadlock, pending Chattanooga's (4-2, 1-1 SoCon) outcome versus Elon on Saturday evening. The Apps travel to Spartanburg, S.C. to face the Terriers on Saturday, Oct. 22 at noon. The showdown will be televised live regionally on Comcast Sports Southeast.