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December 8, 2007

Edwards leads ASU into championship round

BOONE, N.C. - In front of a national television audience, Armanti Edwards put on one of the greatest performances of any player in Appalachian State history. The sophomore quarterback accounted for 495 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns, leading the Mountaineers to a 55-35 semifinal victory over the Richmond Spiders.

Edwards gained more yards than the entire Richmond offense (402), and set a school record with 313 yards rushing. Edwards' rushing total also set an NCAA Division I record for the most single-game rushing yards by a quarterback.

"Our linemen blocked who they were supposed to have blocked and there were just big holes that anybody could run through," Edwards remarked.

His performance helped steer ASU past a Richmond squad that refused to give up after getting behind on the scoreboard early in the game.

After punting on their first possession, the Mountaineer offense put together back-to-back scoring drives to go up 14-0 midway through the first quarter. The first came from receiver Dexter Jackson, who caught a five-yard pass near the left sideline and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown as he crossed the field and outran several defenders on his way to the end zone. Several minutes later, Edwards scored on a run from seven yards out, capping a 67-yard drive.

On their ensuing possession, Richmond capitalized on a defensive breakdown in Appalachian's secondary, as quarterback Eric Ward connected with receiver Kevin Grayson for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter.

ASU responded immediately as Edwards notched his second and third rushing touchdowns on consecutive drives to push the score to 28-7.

"On film they were playing an eight-man front, but they didn't do that out there against us," said Edwards. "They just played quarters and tried to drop back into the flats, and it opened up a lot of running lanes."

Despite the deficit, Richmond refused to give in.

Even with their rushing game not clicking, Richmond managed to stay in the game behind steady play from their quarterback. Ward connected with Grayson once again for a 26-yard touchdown and ran for another score to cut the lead to 14 with 21 seconds remaining in the half. ASU went into halftime up 35-21.

What originally looked to be a blowout quickly turned into a dogfight, as Richmond stormed out of the break, scoring two straight touchdowns to even the score at 35.

"When they came back and tied it, it was kind of a shock," said safety Corey Lynch.

Defensive end Gary Tharrington said, "It was frustrating because our offense had put up 35 points, and when the offense puts up 35 points, you expect the ball game to be over. So we just dug in. We knew what we had to do."

From that point on, it was all Appalachian State.

"We've been through adversity before and we know how to handle it, and we did," said Lynch.

Appalachian State responded by driving 66 yards in eight plays before running back Kevin Richardson scored on a three yard touchdown run, pushing the Mountaineers' lead back to seven.

After exchanging possessions with Richmond, the ASU offense found the end zone once again, as Edwards hit tight end Nic Cardwell down the middle of the field for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 10:11 remaining in the game.

With a 14-point lead in hand, Lynch intercepted a Richmond pass across the middle on the Spiders ensuing possession.

Any hopes of a Richmond comeback were done away with several plays later as Edwards connected with Cardwell for another touchdown, giving the Mountaineers a 20-point lead with 5:27 remaining.

In the end, the playmaking ability of Edwards proved to be too much for Richmond to overcome.

"Armanti Edwards is the best player we have faced all year," said Richmond head coach Dave Clawson. "He's very elusive and makes plays with his feet, his arms, and I think when it's all said and done, he's just a great player."

Edwards finished with 182 yards passing and three touchdowns on 14-of-16 attempts. He also chipped in four rushing touchdowns.

With the win, Appalachian advances to the FCS championship game for a third straight year.

"We've worked very hard to get to the point where we're at right now," said Lynch. "We've got to stay humble and stay hungry."

NOTES:

** Edwards' four rushing touchdowns tie the ASU postseason record.

** Edwards' seven total touchdowns set the ASU postseason record.

** Edwards' 495 yards of total offense break the previous ASU postseason record of 403 yards, set by Richie Williams.

** With their 11th straight playoff victory, ASU set a new record for consecutive postseason wins in contiguous years.

** The game marked the 13th time this season that ASU has scored 30 or more points.

** The 55 points scored by ASU is a school postseason record.

** Appalachian's 617 yards of total offense is a school postseason record.

** Appalachian's 435 yards rushing is a school postseason record.

** The 24,140 in attendance sets a new FCS postseason record for a non-championship game.


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