?€“ On the strength of perhaps the best individual performance in NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision ?€“ formerly Division I-AA) postseason history by quarterback Armanti Edwards
, Appalachian State University earned its third-straight trip to the Division I national championship game with a 55-35 triumph over Richmond on Friday evening.
With the victory, Appalachian (12-2) became just the fifth program in FCS history to advance to three-consecutive national title games, joining Eastern Kentucky (1979-82), Georgia Southern (1988-90 and 1998-2000), Marshall (1991-93) and Youngstown State (1991-94).
The story of the Mountaineers' semifinal triumph was Edwards, who set an NCAA Division I record (FBS or FCS) for rushing yards by a quarterback with 313. The amazing performance also shattered Appalachian and Southern Conference rushing records for any position and was just 20 yards shy of the FCS postseason record of 333, set by Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson versus UMass in the quarterfinals of the 1999 playoffs.
Edwards' 313 rushing yards came on 31 carries and included four touchdown runs. He also completed 14-of-16 passes for 182 yards and three scores. In all, the sophomore set ASU postseason records for rushing yards, total offense (495 yards) and touchdowns responsible for (seven) and tied the school's postseason marks for rushing and passing touchdowns. He also led the Mountaineers to school records for points, total yards (617), rushing yards (435), first downs (29) and touchdowns (8) in a postseason game.
The onslaught from Edwards and Co. started early, as after a punt on their first series, the Apps scored touchdowns on five-straight possessions to grab a 35-14 lead. The first score came on an aerial connection from Edwards to Dexter Jackson
, who did most of the work in taking a short pass 52 yards to paydirt. However, the next four touchdowns all came courtesy of Edwards rushes of seven, nine and 36 yards.
Appalachian took a 35-21 lead into halftime, but saw the advantage evaporate in the first six minutes of the second half, as Richmond (11-3) scored on the opening series after the break and took advantage of a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to march just 29 yards for the tying score with 9:02 to play in the third period.
However, ASU responded with an impressive nine-play, 69-yard drive on its next offensive series, capped by a three-yard touchdown dive by Kevin Richardson
that gave Appalachian the lead for good at 42-35.
From there, it was all Mountaineers, as they limited the Spiders to just 29 yards on their final five possessions. The Apps sealed their trip to Rock City with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Edwards to tight end Nic Cardwell
Not to be overshadowed by Edwards' performance was the play of the Appalachian defense, especially against UR running back Tim Hightower, which it limited to just 95 rushing yards, nearly 50 below his season average. Freshman linebacker D.J. Smith
led the effort with a team-high eight tackles and two pass break-ups. Defensive back Corey Lynch
recorded his 24th-career interception in the decisive fourth quarter to move within one of ASU's 43-year old career record held by Larry Harbin (1961-64).
In addition to Edwards, Richardson rushed for 76 yards on 15 carries and Hans Batichon
caught seven passes for a team-high 60 yards.
The triumph came in front of a loud, rowdy Friday night crowd of 24,140, the largest in FCS postseason history for a non-championship game.
Appalachian will go for an unprecedented third-straight FCS national championship when it faces the winner of Saturday's Southern Illinois-Delaware semifinal next Friday (Dec. 14) in Chattanooga, Tenn. Priority ticket sales for Yosef Club members, ASU students and season-ticket holders ONLY began immediately following the game on Friday night/Saturday morning and will continue on Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. by phone at (828) 262-2079
and in person at the ASU athletics ticket office in the Holmes Center. Any remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday at 9 a.m. For official ASU travel packages, click here
. For information from the ASU Alumni Association, click here
NOTES: Edwards rushed for 204 of his 313 yards in the first half ?€¦ Appalachian moved to 21-0 in games when Lynch has an interception ?€¦ ASU has won 11-straight postseason games, an FCS record for consecutive postseason wins in contiguous years ?€¦ ASU's 21 first-quarter points tied its most of the season (Lenoir-Rhyne and Chattanooga) and were the most allowed by Richmond all season in the opening period (the most points UR had previously allowed in the first quarter were 10 vs. No. 11 New Hampshire) ?€¦ the Mountaineers moved to 4-2 all-time versus Richmond and 19-8 against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association ?€¦ ASU moved to 11-0 all-time when playing on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU (the game was televised nationally on ESPN2).