App. State Looks For 3rd Straight National Title

BOONE, N.C. (AP) -- For a school still talking about its stunning upset of Michigan, Appalachian State has more reason to celebrate. The Mountaineers are a win away from an unprecedented third straight national championship, thanks to their record-breaking quarterback.

Armanti Edwards rushed for 313 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 182 yards and three more scores as Appalachian State advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision title game with a 55-35 win over Richmond Friday night.

Coach Jerry Moore called it the best performance by a quarterback he's ever seen. Behind Edwards' shiftiness and bursts of speed, Appalachian State (12-2) won its fifth straight game and will play the winner of Saturday's Delaware-Southern Illinois game for the title Friday in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"The linemen blocked who they were supposed to block," Edwards said. "They were big holes. Anybody could run through them."

Moore then interrupted him.

"Some of them just can't run as far," Moore said.

Edwards' yards rushing were the most by a quarterback in FCS -- formerly Division I-AA -- history, and 20 shy of the playoff rushing record. He also completed 14 of 16 passes in a nearly flawless performance that ended with the fans tearing down the goal posts, the same way they did when the Mountaineers won 34-32 at Michigan in the first week of the season.

Edwards had 200 yards rushing and four touchdowns with 10 minutes left in the second quarter as the Mountaineers built a 21-point lead. After Richmond rallied to tie, Edwards went to the air to put it away.

His 29-yard TD pass to tight end Nic Cardwell with 10 minutes left made it 49-35. His 13-yard TD pass to Cardwell with 5:27 left iced it.

"No. 14, he's the best we've seen this year," Richmond coach Dave Clawson said. "I think we've got some pretty good athletes on defense. At times he made some plays in space that nobody has made against us this year."

Eric Ward threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more scores for Richmond (11-3), which had its eight-game winning streak snapped in its first FCS semifinal appearance.

Spiders career-rushing leader Tim Hightower shook off a slow start to finish with 95 yards on 22 carries, but was no match for Edwards.

Richmond rallied from a 35-14 second-quarter deficit to tie the game on two quick scores to start the second half. Ward's 17-yard run made it 35-28 and Richmond got the ball back when Max Prokell ripped it away from CoCo Hillary on the kickoff return. Five plays later, Ward's 5-yard run tied it at 35 with 9:02 left.

Then Edwards went to work again. His 44-yard run set up Kevin Richardson's 3-yard TD run to put Appalachian ahead to stay.

"On film they were playing an eight-man front, but they didn't do it against us," Edwards said. "It opened up a lot of running lanes."

Edwards, the left-handed sophomore, made life miserable for the Spiders. Richmond put some pressure on Edwards early, but he continually avoided the rush and blew by the Spiders' linebackers and defensive backs.

About the only mistake Edwards made was when he was called for a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration for doing a somersault after reaching the end zone on his 36-yard run to make it 28-7 early in the second quarter.

The 15-yard penalty on the kickoff set up Ward's 26-yard TD pass to Kevin Grayson to cut Appalachian's lead to 28-14.

Edwards then reeled off runs of 37, 9 and 19 yards on the next possession before his 3-yard run made it 35-14.

The Spiders got within two touchdowns on Ward's 37-yard scramble with 21 seconds left in the first half.

Hightower, who came in averaging more than 140 yard a game, managed only 10 on his first seven carries before heating up in the second half in his final college game. He left as the school leader in 12 offensive categories and was part of a senior class that helped lead a turnaround of the program.

"I couldn't have asked more out of a senior year, " Richmond senior nose guard Bryan DeMoss said. "We started out not being very good. Coach Clawson came in and things changed."


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