College Football: Appalachian State 38, Montana State 17
By Mike Cranston
BOONE — Appalachian State won its last five games by a combined 101 points. So when the Mountaineers entered the fourth quarter against Montana State only seven points ahead Saturday night, coach Jerry Moore was concerned.
“That’s one thing I worry about as a coach,” Moore said. “We’ve had some cushiony ball games in the third and fourth quarter and you wonder how your team will react.”
The answer: just fine.
Kevin Richardson rushed for 131 yards and four touchdowns and defending national champion Appalachian State scored the final 14 points to beat Montana State 38-17 and reach the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.
Quarterback Armanti Edwards rushed for 105 yards and a score — the second straight week he and Richardson both went over 100 yards on the ground — and Omarr Byrom had 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble as the top-seeded Mountaineers won their 12th straight game.
Appalachian State, which has won 26 straight home games, had 283 yards rushing as it advanced to play at home next week against Youngstown State, which defeated Illinois State 28-21 later Saturday night.
Richardson’s TD runs of 2 and 5 yards in the first quarter gave Appalachian State (12-1) a 14-0 lead. The Bobcats cut the deficit to 24-17, but Montana State then made a costly mistake on a trick play.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, receiver Mike Jefferson’s pass was intercepted by Corey Lynch.
“Coach was talking a lot about how they were going to fake a reverse,” Lynch said. “I knew he was going to throw it the whole time, and the receiver was acting like he wasn’t running so it was obvious.”
Richardson scored on a 1-yard run on the ensuing possession.
“I wish I could have it back; I really do,” Jefferson said. “It’s part of the game. They made a great play. I should have just tucked it and ran.”
On the next possession, Byrom sacked Jack Rolevich and knocked away the ball, which was recovered by the Mountaineers’ Daniel Orlebar at the Montana State 3. Richardson then put it away with a 1-yard TD run, his school-record 24th rushing touchdown of the season.
Aaron Mason rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns for Montana State (8-5), but its offensive line struggled to protect Rolevich, who was 9-of-24 for 190 yards and one interception.
“The guy I was going against was 6-6, 320 (pounds), so I figured I’d just use my speed,” Byrom said. “I could use the up and under move and my speed to get around him.”
It appeared Appalachian State was poised for a blowout win early with Byrom’s 2.5 first-quarter sacks and Richardson’s two early scores.
But turnovers and penalties let Montana State back in. Edwards, who passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more in a first-round win over Coastal Carolina, threw an interception and lost two fumbles in the second quarter after hits from Bobby Daly.
Mason’s 4-yard touchdown run and Jeff Hastings’ 32-yard field goal cut the deficit to four in the first meeting between the schools and Montana State’s first game in a Southern Conference stadium since it won its last national championship in 1984.
NOTE: Appalachian State overcame nine penalties for 116 yards to became the first top-seed since 2002 to advance past the second round.
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