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CSN So South: Game of Inches Just a Bit too Far for Mountaineers

floatedleftfloated rightBy Myron Hosea, CSN So South Columnist

Football often has been called a game of inches. That moniker played out a little too close to reality for Appalachian State on a snowy football field Saturday in Montana.

The Mountaineers fell just short of a last-second comeback and dropped the FCS semifinal contest to Montana 24-17. With the victory, the Grizzlies head to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the national title game while Appalachian State missed a shot at a fourth title in five years. Also, the loss ends the stellar careers of the Mountaineer senior class, led by quarterback Armanti Edwards.

On the stat sheet, Appalachian State dominated to a large degree, running 92 offensive plays to Montana’s 60 while leading 497 to 373 in total yards. But the Grizzlies found a way to outscore the Mountaineers 17-7 in the second half, and the most significant of those points came with 1:31 remaining.

Runningback Chase Reynolds, who ran for 193 yards on 23 carries, slashed the Mountaineer defense to move the Grizzlies down the field. His three runs on the winning drive covered 43 yards and, with a face mask penalty against Appalachian State, put Montana at the 15. After a holding penalty, Montana quarterback Andrew Selle hit Javin Sambrano for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Sambrano caught the ball inches (there’s the word) from being out of bounds, but it counted for seven and the lead.

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Of course, Edwards and the Mountaineers had 83 seconds following the kickoff. B. J. Frazier took a pass for 30 yards and completions to Brian Quick (10 yards) and Matt Cline (11) gave Appalachian State a first down at the 24. Three incomplete passes later, Quick went high to catch Edwards’ pass. His forward motion gave the Mountaineers a first down by about an inch.

Devon Moore took a pass for 11 yards to the three, but only six seconds remained. A pass to Cline went incomplete. As time expired, Edwards fired to Quick as he dove across the goal line with defender Brandon Fisher on him, but the ball just barely went through his hands. The game was done.

“We’ve been in these situations before, plenty of times,” Edwards said. “We had plenty of timeouts. We moved the ball all game. We got down there and couldn’t punch it in. Obviously, Montana is a great team. They haven’t lost. You can’t take anything away from them. When you get to the red zone, you have to close it out. You have to come out with points.”

Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore said: “I thought we played well. We didn’t go out and lay down by any means. It was a great college football game. I’ll probably get chastised for saying this, but the FCS probably needed a game like that on national TV. It had to be a plus for the FCS. I’m glad to be a part of it. We played as hard as we could, but we came up a bit short.

“A real critical stat was the penalties (Appalachian State was flagged 10 times for 86 yards),” Moore said. “The ones in the red zone were catastrophic for us. They took us out of scoring opportunities.”

Edwards ended his career with a 353-yard passing performance, completing 28 of 54 passes. He also ran for 54 yards.

Quick snared 10 passes for 135 yards while Cline – who overcame a vicious first-half hit – grabbed seven passes for 101 yards. Moore ran for 84 yards and caught five passes for 35 yards. Moore scored both Mountaineer touchdowns. He ran three yards to tie the game at 7-7 with 14:40 to go in the second quarter, and he scored from the one to put Appalachian State ahead 17-14 with 3:52 remaining in the third period.

Despite the loss, it was a big weekend for several Mountaineers. Edwards, Daniel Finnerty, Trey Hennessee, Josh Jackson, Jacque Roman and Tavaris Washington all returned to Boone on Sunday to receive their degrees during Appalachian State’s winter commencement ceremonies.

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NEWS AND NOTES

Four Southern Conference players and one Big South player were named to the 2009 Walter Camp FCS All-America Team. Three Appalachian State players made the squad – quarterback Armanti Edwards, offensive lineman Mario Acitelli and safety Mark LeGree. Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins also was named to the team. Liberty’s Matt Bevins was chosen as the placekicker.