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Mountaineers Hold off Elon, Clinch Berth
Appalachian wasn’t safe until an Elon pass fell short with 40 seconds remaining.
BOONE - Where is it written that all Appalachian State football victories come easily?
It might seem that way, but the second-ranked Mountaineers’ 24-16 triumph Saturday against Elon at Kidd Brewer Stadium – in which Appalachian clinched a share of the Southern Conference championship and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs – was anything but routine.
The three-time defending national champs Mountaineers (9-2, 7-0 Southern) came into the game ranked second nationally in points per game (41.3) and total yards per game (482.3). In nine previous games against FCS opponents, they scored fewer than 30 points once. Recently, the Mountaineers beat nationally ranked Wofford by an eye-popping score of 70-24 and pounded Chattanooga 49-7 last week.
But along came 11th-ranked Elon (8-3, 6-2), which trailed the Mountaineers by a half-game in the standings and had its own designs on a league title. It wasn’t until Phoenix quarterback Scott Riddle’s pass to Terrell Hudgins fell incomplete on a fourth down with 40 seconds remaining that the Mountaineers were safe.
“We really don’t want it close,” said Appalachian quarterback Armanti Edwards, who left the game briefly in the second half with a bruised knee and a hip-pointer. “So, yeah, we were kind of shocked.”
Still, when the Mountaineers jumped to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter – on touchdown passes from Edwards to freshman tight end Ben Jorden (Charlotte Latin) and Matt Cline – it looked like another Appalachian breeze.
But the Phoenix scored 16 straight points, taking a two-point lead with 11 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter on a 13-yard pass from Riddle to Hudgins (the extra point failed).
Appalachian got the lead back on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Brian Quick. The Mountaineers finished things off with a 24-yard field goal by Jason Vitaris with 9:03 left, on a drive engineered by freshman quarterback DeAndre Presley, who was in for the injured Edwards.
Edwards, a junior who already is the Southern Conference’s career total-offense leader, completed 12-of-14 passes for 147 yards and rushed for 105 yards.
“(Edwards) has another gear,” said Elon coach Pete Lembo. “We all know that.”
The Mountaineers’ league title – they can win it outright with a victory next week against rival Western Carolina – is their fourth straight. It’s a goal coach Jerry Moore thinks he should have stressed more last week while preparing for Elon.
“In the back of your mind, we know what we’re playing for, but we don’t make an issue of it,” said Moore about that fourth straight FCS title. “But I felt bad I showed the national championship ring and we hadn’t even won the conference championship.”
Mountaineers hold off Elon, clinch berth
By David Scott, The Charlotte Observer