Appalachian State stuck with its offensive game plan of feeding the ball to tailback Kevin Richardson and relying on the legs and arm of freshman quarterback Armanti Edwards against a stingy Massachusetts defense in the Division I Football Championship final.
The Mountaineers duo proved to be too much for Massachusetts, which hadn’t allowed any points in the second half during the playoffs, as Appalachian State took the title, 28-17, in front of 22,808 fans December 15 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Richardson ran for four touchdowns and set a Football Championship Subdivision record with 30 rushing scores on the season. Edwards, who surpassed 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing this season, hurt the Minutemen with 146 yards passing and 81 yards on the ground.
"It was no mystery coming in," said Massachusetts coach Don Brown. "We knew we had our hands full. We got them in third-and-longs and Armanti Edwards hurt us with his legs, which we knew he could."
Richardson, who totaled 179 yards rushing, consistently found running room despite playing with a shoulder injury. He said the adrenaline of trying to win Appalachian State’s second straight national championship helped take his mind off the soreness.
"It always feels good coming from nothing and working hard enough to be successful," Richardson told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. "I couldn’t worry about the pain, because this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
The Mountaineers became the first program to win consecutive Football Championship Subdivision titles since Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000.
Most of the 22,808 in attendance — the largest gathering for a title game since Finley Stadium started hosting the event in 1997 — were rooting for Appalachian State. The institution’s campus is located in Boone, North Carolina, which is within driving distance of Chattanooga.
"It almost was like playing at home," said Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, whose team went 14-1 with the lone loss coming at North Carolina State, 23-10.
Massachusetts, which trailed, 14-7, at the half, tied the game on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Liam Coen to Brad Listorti with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
Richardson’s third scoring run gave Appalachian State a 21-14 advantage with 13:22 remaining in the game.
Minutemen kicker Matt Koepplin pulled his team to within four points with a field goal at the 8:46 mark.
Appalachian State then put the game in the hands of Richardson. The Mountaineers chewed 6:46 off the clock, thanks to giving the ball to Richardson 10 times. He capped the 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 1:51 remaining.
"Our offensive linemen did a great job," Richardson said. "We just came out and finished our game."
Appalachian State defensive back Corey Lynch intercepted Coen on Massachusetts’ final drive. The Minutemen ended their season 13-2.
"We pride ourselves on the physical yards, and Appalachian State just made more physical yards than we did," Brown said.
The Mountaineers rushed for 285 yards compared to 151 for Massachusetts, which was seeking its first national crown since 1998.
Appalachian State 7 7 0 14 — 28
Massachusetts 7 0 7 3 — 17
M — Matt Lawrence 1 run (Matt Koepplin kick), 11:49.
AS — Kevin Richardson 45 run (Julian Rauch kick), 1:15.
AS — Richardson 6 run (Rauch kick), :49.
M — Brad Listorti 17 pass from Liam Coen (Koepplin kick), 4:22.
AS — Richardson 4 run (Rauch kick), 13:22.
M — Koepplin 42 field goal, 8:46.
AS — Richardson 2 run (Rauch kick), 1:51.
Announced attendance: 22,808.
Appalachian St. First downs 24 19 Rushes-yards 53-285 32-151 Passing 146 221 Comp.-Att.-Int. 20-33-2 Return yards 115 2 Punts-Avg 4-31.5 4-44.8 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0 Penalties-Yards 3-15 2-25 Time of Possession 33:10 26:50
Time of Possession
Rushing: Appalachian St. — Richardson 30-179, Armanti Edwards 15-81, Devon Moore 6-29, Team 2-minus 4; Massachusetts — Steve Baylark 24-133, Matt Lawrence 2-13, Mike Omar 1-8, Rasheed Rancher 1-3, Liam Coen 2-minus 2, Tim Washington 2-minus 4.
Passing: Appalachian St. — Armanti Edwards 12-19-1-146; Massachusetts — Liam Coen 20-33-2-221.
Receiving: Appalachian St. — Dexter Jackson 3-44, William Mayfield 3-44, T.J. Courman 3-25, Josh Johnson 1-15, Kevin Richardson 1-14, Daniel Bettis 1-4; Massachusetts — Brad Listorti 5-78, J.J. Moore 4-61, Brandon London 4-31, Steve Baylark 3-24, Matt Lawrence 2-14, Tim Washington 1-7, Rasheed Rancher 1-6.