Mountaineers climb third title peak

Proud to be a Boone Goon. I lived in East Dorm and up on Hippy Hill. I loved my four years in Boone, wouldn't trade them for anything.

By Steve Behr
sports@wataugademocrat.com

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Appalachian State started the 2007 season with one of the biggest victories in college football history. Fourteen weeks later, the Mountaineers completed the season in a dominating style that one would expect of a two-time defending national champion.

Few teams have come close to stopping Appalachian State’s explosive offense. Michigan, that opponent on opening day, couldn’t do it. Delaware, Appalachian State’s opponent in the Football Championship Subdivision championship game Friday night at Finley Stadium, couldn’t do it either.

Appalachian State overwhelmed the Blue Hens’ defense, scoring four touchdowns in the first half and then cruising to a 49-21 victory in the FCS championship in front of a Finley Stadium record 23,010 fans, more than half of them wearing Appalachian State black and gold, at Finley Stadium.

Appalachian State (13-2) became the first team in the history of the Division I-AA/FCS playoffs to win three national championships in a row. The Mountaineers won their eighth game in a row this season and their 10th game in their last 11 tries. Appalachian State won its 10th game while wearing its black home uniforms and their second game over a team that has blue and gold colors and a winged design with stripes on its helmet.

It’s also their third win over a Colonial Athletic Association team, having beaten James Madison and Richmond earlier in the playoffs.

Appalachian State was never in any danger of losing to the Blue Hens (11-4). The Mountaineers claimed a 21-0 lead and took a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter. A third-quarter drive that went 67 yards on 14 plays that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Armanti Edwards to Kevin Richardson gave Appalachian State a 35-7 lead and effectively took the Blue Hens out of the game.

Edwards did not have to rush for 313 yards, like he did last week in a 55-35 win over Richmond in the semifinals. Edwards didn't pile up the same amount of numbers, but he ran for 89 yards on 18 carries and hit 9-of-15 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns.

Kevin Richardson, playing in his final game at Appalachian State, ran for 118 yards and scored touchdowns of 19 and 8 yards. Backup quarterback Trey Elder, playing in his final game at ASU, broke a 53-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, giving the Mountaineers a 49-14 lead.

The first half was dominated by the Mountaineers, even though the numbers did not necessarily indicate it. Appalachian State led 14-0 after the first quarter, but held the ball for just 4:40, compared to 10:20 by the Blue Hens.

The Mountaineers also ran fewer plays in the first half, 40-30, but held a 294-251 advantage in yardage and more importantly, a 28-7 halftime lead.

Appalachian State scored on four if its six possessions in the first half, including its first three. Edwards hit Richardson for a 19-yard screen touchdown pass that was the first of several instant replay reviews done by the officiating crew. Richardson was judged to have broken the plane of the goal line and the Mountaineers led 7-0.

Delaware looked like it had tied the game when Omar Cuff carried the ball from four yards out from the Mountaineers’ end zone. However, after another officials’ review, it was ruled that Cuff was down before he crossed the goal line.

After stopping Cuff for no gain on third down, the Mountaineers forced quarterback Joe Flacco into an incomplete pass and took over on downs.

The Mountaineers proceeded to stampede 99 yards in just five plays on a drive capped by a 46-yard run by backup running back Devon Moore.

The Mountaineers got a big break on its third touchdown when Richardson fumbled into the end zone. Recently converted tight end Daniel Kilgore recovered in the end zone to give Appalachian State a 21-7 lead with 10:22 left in the first half.

Delaware eventually struck back with a 39-yard scoring pass from Flacco to Mark Duncan. The officials initially ruled that Duncan caught the ball out of bounds, but another instant replay review showed that he got a foot down in the end zone, pulling the Blue Hens to within 21-7 with 1:46 left

Appalachian State wasted little time with its answer, a 60-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Dexter Jackson with 44 seconds left in the half.