BOONE, N.C. ?€“ Kevin Richardson's 171 rushing yards and a timely defense proved to be the difference in Appalachian State University's 34-23 victory over visiting Lafayette in the opening round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs on Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Richardson's 171 yards came on 24 carries and was the fifth-highest total in Appalachian playoff history. He also ran for a 38-yard touchdown, which he capped by beating a trio of Lafayette defenders to paydirt with a dive over the nearside pylon. He moved alone into third place on ASU's single-season rushing touchdown list with his 15th score on the ground this season.
Walter Payton Award candidate quarterback Richie Williams became the Southern Conference's all-time leader in total offense with 8,758 career yards, as he threw for 151 yards and ran for 32 more in the triumph. Williams also tossed three touchdown passes in the second half, including a pair of fourth-quarter scoring strikes to tight end Daniel Bettis that let Appalachian finally shake the pesky Leopards.
Appalachian (9-3), which trailed for much of the game and was on the short end of a 36:09-23:51 margin in time of possession, didn't take the lead for good until Williams found Bettis for a nine-yard scoring connection that gave ASU a 27-20 advantage with 11:25 remaining in the contest.
Lafayette appeared to regain the momentum by forcing a three-and-out on Appalachian's first series following Rick Ziska's third field goal of the afternoon, which cut Lafayette's deficit to 27-23. However, Buck Buchanan Award candidate Marques Murrell turned the contest around on the initial play after the punt when he forced a fumble, which the Mountaineers recovered on the Leopards' 26 yard line. The forced fumble was the fifth of the season and 10th of his career for Murrell, who moved into a tie for fifth place on ASU's career lists in both categories.
Appalachian put the game away on the very next snap, as Williams threaded a pass through a pair of defenders to Bettis for a 26-yard touchdown that stretched the Apps' advantage to 34-23 with only 5:56 left to play.
ASU needed every bit of the 24-point second half after Lafayette held the ball for 22:35 of the first 30 minutes and took a 17-10 advantage into halftime. Things could have been even worse for the Apps, as the Leopards drove 61 yards in 10 plays on their opening drive before linebacker Brad West stalled the drive by forcing a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Justin Woazeah. However, it was Lafayette that took advantage of the turnover battle in the opening half by turning two of Appalachian's season-high six fumbles into 10 points.
Lafayette continued to move the ball effectively in the second half, but ASU's defense turned in big play after big play to stymie a number of scoring opportunities for Lafayette. In addition to Murrell's forced fumble that helped Appalachian put the contest away in the waning minutes, Woazeah and linebacker Zodd Kelly each picked off passes that ended potential scoring drives for Lafayette. The interceptions were just part of career days for the duo, as Woazeah added six tackles to his two takeaways and Kelly turned in a sack, quarterback hurry and pass breakup to go along with the INT and a game high-tying 12 tackles.
Despite the Apps' defensive heroics, Lafayette quarterback Pat Davis engineered a Leopard offense that outgained the Mountaineers 431-375 and had 11 more first downs than the Apps. Davis threw for 259 yards on 24-of-40 passing with a touchdown, but also tossed the two critical interceptions and was responsible for the fourth-quarter fumble that led to the Mountaineers' final touchdown.
Lafayette running back Jonathan Hurt ran 25 times for 115 yards and matched a game high with five receptions. He recorded a pair of touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air.
Buck Buchanan Award candidate Maurice Bennett led Lafayette (8-4) with 11 tackles.
By extending its school-record home winning streak to 16 games, second-seeded Appalachian (9-3) set up a quarterfinal matchup versus Southern Illinois next Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Game time will be announced early in the week.
NOTES: Richardson upped his season rushing total to 1,178 yards, good for eighth place overall in Appalachian single-season history and just 64 yards short of the ASU sophomore record of 1,242, set by Terrence McCall in 1998 ?€¦ Williams set the SoCon total offense record with a 23-yard completion to fellow senior Brandon Turner that help set up the Apps' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter ... Williams broke the previous SoCon career record of 8,711 yards that was held by East Tennessee State's Todd Wells (1997-2000) ?€¦ With his three touchdown passes, Williams also moved within one of the SoCon's career record in that category, as his 56 career touchdowns are behind only the 57 thrown by Marshall's Michael Payton from 1989-92 ?€¦ Saturday's raucous crowd of 6,327 was the third-largest for an opening-round playoff contest in Mountaineer history.
November 26, 2005
NCAA Division I-AA First Round
Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore
On Lafayette's offense:
"I thought they did a good job of play selection. Some of their crossing routes hurt us a couple of times."
On what hurt Appalachian defensively:
"The speed of the game is different on Saturday. That guy who's been running plays for them for 12 games is a little better than a scout team."
On what he knows about Southern Illinois:
"Not one thing?€¦we've been concentrating on Lafayette."
Appalachian quarterback Richie Williams
On the final touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Bettis:
"It was a play action and I saw Daniel open down the middle. He made a big catch in the back of the end zone and that was a real big boost for our team."
Appalachian running back Kevin Richardson
On his thoughts during the first half:
"We needed to get the ball. Our defense was on the field for too long."
Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani
On the fourth quarter:
"They started to make some great plays?€¦they are an outstanding football program with a tremendous team."
On their trip to the playoffs:
"A year ago we got in the playoffs and were somewhat satisfied to get in. This year it was a different story?€¦we were determined to win and unfortunately it didn't come to fruition."
On the Offensive Line:
"Our O-line did an awesome job today, probably the best all season."
Lafayette Linebacker Maurice Bennett:
On the first half:
"I think they came out thinking 'what the heck is going on.' They really tried to come out and hammer us in that second half."
Lafayette runningback Jonathan Hurt
On the trick play:
"Pretty much the tight end just runs a little dump pass and I just put the ball over the line. He got caught up when three guys hit him and never made it out of the backfield."
Lafayette quarterback Pat Davis
On plays he would like to have back:
"The two picks?€¦It was just little mistakes that I made that I would like to have back."