GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Buck Buchanan Award candidate Corey Lynch's interception at the ASU three yard line as time expired sealed No. 10 Appalachian State University's 34-27 win over Furman on Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
Appalachian (6-2, 2-2 SoCon) jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and took a 14-point advantage into the fourth quarter but Furman's 20 second-half points left the outcome in doubt until the game's final seconds, as has become the norm in the ASU-FU rivalry.
Early on, it appeared that Saturday's showdown was going to be more like last season's 40-7 triumph in Boone than the previous seven games between the Mountaineers and Paladins that were decided by a total of just 21 points. Sparked by Armanti Edwards' 251 yards of total offense in the first half alone, the Mountaineers cruised to the 17-point halftime advantage.
The two teams traded touchdowns to start the second half, but Furman used a pair of Scott Beckler field goals to chip the Appalachian lead to 31-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Julian Rauch's second field goal of the afternoon stretched the Mountaineer cushion back to 14 points midway through the final period, but the Paladins answered with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Jerome Felton to cut the deficit to 34-27 with 3:27 remaining.
Following the Furman score, ASU recovered an onside kick and got a first down, which forced FU to use both of its remaining timeouts. However, Appalachian's opportunity to put the game away with a field goal was thwarted when Furman blocked Rauch's 42-yard attempt with 1:11 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, the Paladins marched 47 yards to the ASU 29 with seven seconds remaining. However, their last-ditch effort to send the game to overtime was snuffed out by Lynch when he stepped in front of Reynaldo Gray's pass at the three yard line and picked it off. The senior from Cape Coral, Fla. returned his 20th-career interception to midfield, sending the clock to all zeroes and the Mountaineers pouring onto the field in jubilation.
Despite the last-second defensive stand, the story of the day was Appalachian's offense, which rolled up 511 yards of offense and extended its school record by topping the 30-point mark for the eighth-straight game.
Edwards finished with 337 yards of total offense (211 passing, 126 rushing) to lead the offensive attack. Walter Payton Award candidate Kevin Richardson added 124 yards on 21 carries (5.9 yards per rush) to become just the second player in ASU history with 4,000 career rushing yards. At 4,100 yards for his illustrious career, Richardson needs just 310 to surpass John Settle (4,409 ?€“ 1983-86) as Appalachian's all-time leading rusher.
Defensively, Lynch led all players with 12 tackles, while defensive end Gary Tharrington overcame an assortment of bumps and bruises to add nine stops. Spurred by 11 tackles for loss, the Mountaineer defense limited Furman to 402 yards of offense, including just 110 before halftime.
Gray, Edwards' first cousin, ran for 103 yards and passed for 154 more to lead Furman (3-5, 1-3 SoCon).
With only its fifth win ever over Furman in Greenville, Appalachian remained in contention for its third-straight Southern Conference championship. ASU stands just one game in the loss column behind conference leaders Elon (6-2, 4-1 SoCon) and Wofford (7-2, 4-1 SoCon). Appalachian faces another must-win game on the road next week when it travels to The Citadel (5-3, 3-2 SoCon). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, S.C.
NOTES: Appalachian moved to 14-0 in its last 14 games following a loss ?€¦ the Mountaineers haven't lost consecutive games since falling to Hawaii and Eastern Kentucky to open the 2003 season ?€¦ in four quarters spanning the second half of last year's game and the first half on Saturday, ASU outscored Furman, 50-7 ?€¦ the Apps snapped a two-game losing streak in televised games with the victory, which was televised live regionally on SportSouth ?€¦ Appalachian had won 16-straight televised games before losses to Wofford (SportSouth) and Georgia Southern (MASN) this season ?€¦ ASU moved to 17-0 in games which Lynch has intercepted a pass and 16-0 in games when Richardson has rushed for 100 yards ?€¦ Edwards' 100-yard rushing performance was the eighth of his career ?€¦ Edwards' two rushing touchdowns give him 19 for his career, good for a tie with Tim Sanders (1985-88) for ninth all-time on ASU's career list ?€¦ Richardson and Edwards have rushed for 100 yards apiece in four of Edwards' last eight games.