College Football: Appalachian State 49, Youngstown State 24

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2006

By Mike Cranston

Associated Press

BOONE — Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore wants his program to reach the level of Youngstown State’s dominant teams of the 1990s.

He’s nearly halfway there.

Armanti Edwards ran for 110 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score and defending national champion Appalachian State beat Youngstown State 49-24 on Saturday to reach the NCAA Division I-AA title game.

Kevin Richardson rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter with a shoulder injury as the Mountaineers won their 13th straight game and advanced to face Massachusetts on Friday night in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Youngstown State was the power of I-AA in the 1990s, winning four national championships under now-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. But the Penguins hadn’t won a playoff game since 1999 before their run to the semifinals and they were overmatched against what has become I-AA’s current dominant team.

“What we did last year and particularly if we could follow it up this year, it puts you on the edge of being like a Youngstown was in the ’90s,” Moore said. “It really hasn’t sunk in really what’s happened to us. The thing in this two-year run for us is our uncanny ability to focus on what’s happening that week.”

Edwards, a freshman, became only the fifth player in Division I and the first since Vince Young of Texas last year to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season. Edwards reached the milestone with his 6-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter that made it 14-0.

Richardson had touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards in the second to help the Mountaineers (13-1) build a 28-7 lead.

“They’re a heck of a football team and we knew what we were getting into,” Penguins coach Jon Heacock said. “We couldn’t slow them down. We just couldn’t do it.”

Richardson, who has a team-record 26 touchdowns, was injured while being tackled early in the third quarter. But by then the Mountaineers led 35-14 and were well on their way to their 21st straight win against I-AA teams and their 27th consecutive home victory.

“A couple guys just fell on me and I landed an awkward way,” Richardson said. “I had this injury before. I’ll be good to go next week.”

Marcus Mason rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown for the Penguins (11-3), who had been 6-0 in semifinal games.

But Youngstown State couldn’t keep up with the Mountaineers’ speed or strength up front. When Appalachian State’s offensive line wasn’t opening up big holes for Richardson and Edwards, the two were breaking tackles or carrying multiple defenders for extra yards.

“When you’ve got five or six of these on the line, it’s just no problem,” Edwards said while pointing to left guard Kerry Brown. “They block great and we just follow.”

Shortly after Edwards’ 8-yard TD run with 8:57 left made it 49-17, hundreds of fans began to line up outside the stadium to purchase tickets for the championship game against the Minutemen, who won at Montana 19-17 on Friday night.

“There was so much talk last year about what a great night it was over there,” Moore said of Appalachian State’s 21-16 win over Northern Iowa in last year’s title game in Chattanooga. “Now they have an opportunity to go back. I can’t see it being anything less than bigger and better.”

The Mountaineers, who rushed for 353 yards, also were dominant on defense. Youngstown State’s Tom Zetts was just 13-of-27 for 150 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“They were getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and Tommy didn’t have any time,” said T.J. Peterson, who was held to five catches for 49 yards.

The Penguins, who didn’t pick up a first down until early in the second quarter, got within 14 points at halftime on Zetts’ 16-yard TD pass to Monquantae Gibson.

But Appalachian State put it away early in the third. Marques Murrell’s second sack pinned the Penguins at their own 4. Thanks to a bad snap, Joe Bishop managed an 8-yard punt that rolled out of bounds at the 10. On the next play, the speedy Edwards eluded tacklers along the left sideline for a touchdown to make it 35-14.

“It was a critical point,” Heacock said. “When you get into that situation and give them the ball there, you’re in trouble.”