College Football: Appalachian State 37, S.C. State 21
By David Shaw
BOONE ó It’s a good thing Appalachian State isn’t too picky about how it wins ballgames.
The Mountaineers ó owners of the nation’s sixth-best rushing attack before Saturday’s FCS post-season opener against South Carolina State ó took the high road and air-mailed their way to a 37-21 victory.
“Going in we felt like we wanted to throw the ball,” coach Jerry Moore said after second-seeded ASU (11-2) earned a second-round home game against Richmond next Saturday. “We’re not all-ego about running the ball. If you let us throw it, we’ll throw it.”
Winning quarterback Armanti Edwards passed for a school-record 433 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Apps shake off S.C. State (10-3) and win their 13th straight playoff game.
“We felt we could pass on them,” Edwards said after completing 29 of 41 attempts. “They had a lot of holes in their defensive secondary.”
ASU, winner of 10 consecutive games since falling at James Madison on Sept. 20, turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions and trailed 7-0 when State’s Malcolm Long fired a 19-yard touchdown pass to Octavius Darby in the first quarter.
But Edwards answered before the period was over. He steered ASU 73 yards for a TD on its next possession, connecting with tight end Ben Jordan on a rollout pattern for the score.
“They could not run the ball on us consistently,” Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough told the media. “But at the same time, we couldn’t stop them from throwing it. It was a tradeoff.”
Appalachian took the lead for good late in the first half when Edwards ó who became the 26th player in FCS history to accumulate 10,000 total career yards ó hit CoCo Hillary on a 27-yard crossing pattern that made it 17-14. The left-handed QB jitterbugged for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter before S.C. State running back Will Ford (23 carries/117 yards) skirted into the end zone on a 13-yard sweep with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter, pulling the guests within 24-21.
“I really felt like we had a grip on things,” said Pough. “I thought we had’ em slowed down. And then they made that big play.”
That big play was made by Edwards and it came on third-and-12 from the ASU 23 with 10:47 to go. Scrambling backward with State’s DL in hot pursuit, he somehow found wideout T.J. Courman alone near the left sideline and spiraled an off-balance pass. Courman made a nice grab, outmuscled a couple of defenders for another eight or nine yards after the catch and gave the Apps a first down on the 36.
“I was originally going deep,” said Courman. “But when I saw him scrambling I broke my route off and came back to help.”
ASU capitalized three minutes later and took a 31-21 lead when Edwards tossed a short TD pass to Brian Quick midway through the fourth quarter.
“And to think, we were about to punt,” Edwards said. “I don’t think it took a lot out of them, but it took enough.”
Appalachian iced the victory with a rub-it-in touchdown with five seconds left ó after S.C. State had called timeouts with 18 and 12 seconds remaining.
“We wanted the game to be over but they kept calling time,” Moore said. “The players just took it upon themselves on that one.”
NOTES: Richmond (10-3) advanced with a 38-10 first-round victory over Eastern Kentucky. Saturday’s starting time will be announced today. … ASU finished with 557 yards total offense, but only 124 on the ground. That’s well below its season average of 254. … Safety Mark Le Gree led the ASU defense with his 10th interception of the year. Teammate D.J. Smith had 16 tackles while Anthony “Whopper” Williams (Northwest Cabarrus) had six and Billy Riddle (Davie County) made two.
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