College Football: Appalachian State loss stings Moore

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

By Mike Cranston
Associated Press
BOONE ó ppalachian State coach Jerry Moore was adjusting the best he could to being in Virginia recruiting Wednesday instead of preparing for a playoff game.
But four days after the Mountaineers’ hopes for a fourth straight national championship were dashed in a mistake-filled 33-13 loss to Richmond, Moore couldn’t bear to drive through the city that houses the team that ended the magical run.
“I don’t want anybody to see me up here. I’m going around Richmond,” Moore joked while speaking from his cell phone. “I was on (Interstate) 64 and I’m going on the bypass ó for a couple of reasons I think.”
Moore hasn’t lost his sense of humor after Appalachian State was knocked from the perch it had owned for so long: king of college football’s second tier.
The Boone, N.C., school that burst onto the national scene with that stunning with at Michigan 15 months ago saw its streak of 13 straight Football Championship Subdivision playoff victories snapped under the weight of seven turnovers and a banged-up star quarterback in a home quarterfinal loss Saturday.
“I think if we had played good and gotten beat, you probably could accept it a little bit more,” Moore said, while giving plenty of credit to the Spiders. “They scored 21 points off a possession at the 2, a possession at the 4 and a possession at the 15. That just hadn’t been us. We’ve always taken pretty good care of the ball.”
But the good fortune finally ran out. No stunning comeback win, like last year’s victory against James Madison in the playoffs. No more making up for a sometimes leaky defense.
The skinny, youthful Armanti Edwards’ body didn’t hold up this time, either. Slowed by a hip pointer and a sore knee, Edwards threw five interceptions ó he had four in the team’s first 13 games ó and managed only three yards rushing.
“He was just limited. He threw a couple of bad balls ó a couple of them he threw off his back foot,” Moore said. “There were a couple of times he tried to throw the ball away. He just didn’t have anything on it. … He just couldn’t really throw the ball with the velocity that he wanted to.”
It was too much to overcome, despite the adoring home crowd in the spiffy, renovated stadium. When it was certain the title run was over, the fans stood. They cheered for the team that had put their school on the map with 50 victories, three national titles and perhaps college football’s biggest upset win in four fun-filled years.
“It was an incredible experience when those students and those fans started chanting, ‘ASU, ASU,”‘ Moore said. “We were obviously getting beat and there was less than a minute to go. They started that and it was an awesome feeling.”
But the feeling didn’t last for long. Moore met with the players and coaches. The sour taste lingered. The quest to get back to the top resonated throughout the program. Two days later, Moore and his coaches were on the road recruiting.
While the record-breaking Edwards and most of his fellow starters return, Moore needs a talent infusion on defense. Starting linebacker Pierre Banks and offensive tackles Jonathan Bieschke and Brad Coley must be replaced.
“We’ve got a lot of players coming back, but I don’t think you can stay status quo either,” Moore said. “You can’t think because they’re young and you’ve got them coming back you’re going to be good. I think you’ve got to go work harder.”
It’s why the 69-year-old Moore bristled at suggestions the Mountaineers’ dominance is over.
“I’m probably more driven right now than I’ve been in the 20 years I’ve been at Appalachian State,” Moore said.
So there was Moore Wednesday, in Virginia, but on his way to South Carolina. He’ll later visit Florida, selling his school to recruits.
Just don’t expect him to step foot in Richmond anytime soon. The loss that ended three years of nonstop thrills still hurts too much.
“It’s just been an awesome experience for a little mountain town and a little mountain school,” Moore said. “We’ve all enjoyed it, and that’s why we’re all out here ó to try to get back and go to it again.”