BOONE, N.C. ?€“ Led by Walter Payton Award candidate Kevin Richardson's four second-quarter touchdowns, No. 5 Appalachian State University rattled off 38 unanswered points to defeat Gardner-Webb, 45-7, on Saturday afternoon at sold-out Kidd Brewer Stadium.
In front of an Appalachian homecoming-record crowd of 27,428, Appalachian (5-1) out-gained Gardner-Webb (2-3), 466-211, to extend its home winning streak to 30 games. The home winning streak, which dates back to the beginning of the 2003 season, is the nation's longest in NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision ?€“ formerly Division I-AA) and the second-longest in all of Division I, behind only USC's 35-game winning streak at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Mountaineers' offensive attack was potent from the get-go, as quarterback Trey Elder found Hans Batichon for a 67-yard touchdown pass on the game's opening play.
After a muffed punt set up the Bulldogs' only touchdown and sent the ballgame into the second quarter tied at 7-7, Richardson took over. The senior scored all four of his touchdowns in the second period, carrying the ball to paydirt from three, five, six and three yards to give the Apps a commanding 35-7 halftime lead. The four-touchdown effort was the fourth of Richardson's career and marked his 18th multi-touchdown performance.
With most of ASU's starters out of the game following halftime, redshirt freshman wide receiver CoCo Hillary took over the reins at quarterback for the first time in his collegiate career. Hillary was impressive in his debut behind center, completing 3-of-3 passes for 67 yards and rushing three times for 20 yards to lead ASU to a touchdown on his first series. He went on to lead Appalachian to a field goal on his only other drive and finished the afternoon with 83 yards on 4-of-5 passing and 35 more on nine carries.
The nation's fifth-rated passer coming in, Elder had another strong performance, going 14-for-18 for 229 yards and a touchdown to move to 7-1 in his career as a starter. Batichon caught six passes for a career-high 132 yards while Richardson finished with 80 yards on 17 carries. All three stars' totals came in the first half.
Defensively, Tim Washington and Gary Tharrington led a revamped Mountaineer defensive front with a combined 14 tackles, including two and two-and-a-half, respectively, behind the line of scrimmage. Justin Woazeah broke up five passes to help limit GWU to just 107 yards on 11-of-32 passing.
Following its final non-conference matchup of the regular season, Appalachian enjoys a much-needed bye week before returning to Southern Conference action on Oct. 20 versus Georgia Southern. The Black Saturday showdown at The Rock is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised regionally on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).
NOTES: ASU moved to 33-11-2 all-time on homecoming with its 22nd win in its last 26 homecoming games at Kidd Brewer Stadium ?€¦ ASU is 5-0 all-time versus Gardner-Webb, winning the five games by an average score of 38-9 ?€¦ the win was Appalachian's 14th-straight over current members of the Big South Conference ?€¦ the Mountaineers haven't lost to a non-conference opponent on homecoming since a dropping a 38-7 decision to Ball State in 1977 ?€¦ the 38-point loss was the worst of the season for Gardner-Webb, whose previous two losses were by 18 and 16 points, respectively, at Bowl Subdivision opponents Ohio and Mississippi State ?€¦ the 67-yard touchdown on the opening play was the longest pass of Elder's career (prev. 65 vs. Texas State, 2004) and longest reception of Batichon's career (prev. 44 vs. Southern Illinois, 2005) ?€¦ Julian Rauch's 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was a career long ?€¦ ASU featured a new look along the defensive front on Saturday, with Washington at left end, Tharrington at left tackle, Anthony Williams at right tackle and true freshman Jabari Fletcher at right end ?€¦ the start was the first of Fletcher's career and the first at new positions for Washington and Tharrington (both of whom made their previous starts at right end) ?€¦ three offensive tackles ?€“ Mario Acitelli (ankle), Jonathan Bieschke (knee) and Pat Mills (ankle) sat out due to injuries ?€¦ in their stead, Brad Coley made his third start at left tackle, John Holt moved over from his right guard position to right tackle and Daniel Kilgore made his first-career start at right guard.