App. State safeties help secure title

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2006

By Bret Strelow

Salisbury Post

The title game notebook …

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A severe elbow injury sidelined Corey Lynch for Appalachian State’s regular-season finale and playoff opener, but former Davie County standout Billy Riddle filled in at safety.

Riddle missed the next two games because of an ankle injury suffered in the first-round win against Coastal Carolina, but Lynch returned to the lineup in time to help lead ASU to victories against Montana State and Youngstown State.

Lynch and Riddle were both healthy enough to play in the 28-17 win against Massachusetts. Their perseverance made an impression on coach Jerry Moore.

“That’s the toughness factor these guys have for each other,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of trust and a lot of respect among our team.”

Lynch, who played with a bulky brace covering a large portion of his left arm, made seven solo tackles and a game-sealing interception in the final at Finley Stadium.

His hard hit on Brandon London jarred the ball loose for a third-down incompletion.

“First you have to talk about the courage he’s got and the grit that he’s got,” Moore said. “He’s got one screw in his forearm about the size of a pencil. There are six other ones on a plate underneath the bottom of it.”

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FRESH FACE: Freshman quarterback Armanti Edwards accounted for 227 yards of offense and bounced back from a costly pick.

ASU had a chance to go ahead by two touchdowns midway through the third quarter, but he overthrew wide-open receiver William Mayfield.

Edwards forced a throw into traffic on the next play, and James Ihedigbo intercepted it at the Massachusetts 19. The Minutemen then drove for the tying touchdown.

Edwards attempted two straight passes early in the Mountaineers’ next drive, but 24 of their final 25 plays were runs. The one pass was a 15-yard completion to Josh Johnson on a third-and-10 play, and ASU scored its final touchdown four snaps later.

“Having a great rushing game, that took them out of the blitz at the end,” Edwards said. “We saw they were tired and kept telling them to run the ball. Their safety likes to get real deep when he doesn’t blitz, and that left the middle open.”

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SWAN SONGS: ASU will lose nine senior starters, including three from the defensive front four. Defensive end Marques Murrell and tackle Omarr Byrom combined for a sack while helping the Mountaineers claim their second straight title.

“It’s great to go out on top, especially my senior year,” Murrell said. “This one is very monumental to me.”

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