|« Jacks Shellacked: Griz force 10 turnovers in rout of SFA||Cold, snowy weather is a beautiful thing for Villanova »|
Moving On! ASU beats Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. - Few expected No. 5 Appalachian State would have an easy time with No. 4 Richmond. Their game, at chilly University or Richmond Stadium, was the third playoff game played against each other in the past three years, and they are two of the top programs in the FCS.
The game matched all of the expectations of what happens when the winners of the past four national championships play each other. Appalachian State reached the third round of the 2009 NCAA FCS playoffs with a heart-stopping 35-31 victory over Richmond after overcoming a 14-point fourth-
quarter deficit with three touchdowns in the final period.
The final touchdown could not have been more dramatic if it was a Hollywood screenplay. Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards led the Mountaineers on a touchdown drive of 70 yards, capping the march with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Cline with 10 seconds left in the game.
“We had a rollout to the three receiver side,” Edwards said. “I saw the linebacker blitzing and he left Cline, so I threw it down and low, so he was the only one who could get it.”
Edwards could not afford to take a sack since the Mountaineers had no timeouts left. Had he thrown not thrown the ball and not reached the end zone, time would have run out on the Mountaineers’ season.
“The last thing we said to Armanti is you’ve got to throw the ball,” Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said. “We could have kicked a field goal to tie the game and we could have had an opportunity to tie the game at the worst.”
Cline had a feeling that the ball was coming to him when he saw the player covering him blitz.
“I saw the guy lined up over me,” Cline added. “Whenever he blitzed off the line, I had a feeling that the ball was coming my way. I turned my head around as quick as I could and it worked out for me.”
It gave the Mountaineers a 35-31 lead that the Spiders simply could not overcome. Richmond took two shots at scoring on its ensuing drive, but quarterback Eric Ward was sacked on the final play of the game.
That possibility seemed to be in doubt after a strange turn of events with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers (11-2) held a 28-24 lead when Richmond’s Eric McBride stripped Travaris Cadet of the ball on a punt return and raced eight yards for a touchdown to give the Spiders a 31-28 lead.
Cadet, who is also the team’s backup quarterback, said he probably should have fair-caught the ball at the Mountaineers’ 10-yard line.
“Those things happen,” Cadet said. “The team pulled me through it and our offense made a play.”
“All season in practice, we’ve worked on stripping the ball out,” McBride said. “I was just doing what the coach taught us.”
The Mountaineers, who will play at Montana in the third round, had Cadet’s back. They roared through the Richmond defense with a 12-play drive highlighted by a third-down conversion on an Edwards to Brian Quick completion, and a 9-yard completion to Cline that was aided by a 15-yard penalty that gave the Mountaineers a first down at the Richmond 19.
The drive led to the final score of the game.
“I was just thinking we’ve got one more chance,” Edwards said. “We were doing pretty good in the fourth quarter, so we felt pretty confident we could drive on them.”
Appalachian State trailed 21-14 heading into the fourth quarter, but got a 5-yard Devon Moore run that capped a quick three-play, 64-yard drive that brought the Mountaineers to within 24-21.
They added another touchdown on an Edwards 3-yard run that capped a 9-play, 73-yard drive that gave the Mountaineers their first lead, 28-24, with 4:28 left.
Moore finished with 175 yard rushing, 102 of them in the second half and 68 of them on that drive. Moore also capped a 43-yard, seven-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown run with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
Edwards completed 21-of-33 passes for 216 yards and was not sacked. Appalachian State finished with 444 total yards and scored 35 points on a team that was giving up just 14.8 points and 66.6 yards rushing, which was third in the nation, per game.
Richmond coach Mike London said the Mountaineers’ fourth-quarter comeback all started with Edwards.
“He’s a terrific player,” London said. “The style of their offense is to spread you out along the field and make you defend gaps and angles and lanes. You can have a guy assigned to him and if that guy doesn’t tackle, he’s such a good athlete he’s going to make plays. When you try to take him out of the game, he can hand the ball off to the running backs because of the creases. It’s an offense that’s effective and it fits their personality and it fits what they’re doing.”
Richmond (11-2) finished with 347 yards in total offense. The Spiders also missed a key 27-yard field goal in the third quarter after two pass plays, one a 24-yarder in front of the ASU bench, helped the Spiders reach the Mountaineers’ 7-yard line.
Appalachian State’s defense held Justin Forte to 58 rushing yards on 18 carries. Richmond quarterback Eric Ward, a three-year starter, completed 17-of-31 passes for 202 yards and a 19-yard touchdown to Tre Gray in the second quarter that gave the Spiders a 14-7 halftime lead. The Spiders opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 2-yard run by fullback Ben Keating, his only carry of the game.
Appalachian State struck back quickly, marching 75 yards in just seven plays on a drive capped by a 16-yard run by Edwards, who gained 51 yards on 12 rushes after being restricted to emergency-only running because of a sore knee in a first-round win over South Carolina State.
“(It’s) amazing and awesome and grateful,” Moore said when asked to put the game into words. “It’s a bunch of great people. I was telling the guys coming up here we’ve got a guy who gets beat deep, get a 15-yarder for excess celebration and a punt taken away from a return guy all in a span of about seven or eight minutes. There are so many things and I’ll never forget it, when Ed Gainey got beat in front of our bench, and it was a great throw and catch, there were about seven or eight guys hollering about him and encouraging him saying “that’s all right, that’s all right.
That could have been a turning point of the game and all three of those could have been turning points. These guys are resilient and I couldn’t be proud enough of them.”
Moving On! ASU beats Richmond
By Steve Behr, The Watauga Democrat (NC)