7:00 PM ET, December 5, 2009
RICHMOND, Va. -- Armanti Edwards had already beaten Richmond with his feet once, and Appalachian State's dynamic dual-threat quarterback beat them with his arm Saturday night.
Edwards threw a perfectly placed 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Cline with 10 seconds to play, capping a wild last few minutes and giving Appalachian State a 35-31 victory against the defending champion Spiders in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
"Armanti put it where it needed to be, low and outside," Cline said of the catch that got to him just past the outstretched arms of diving safety Michael Ireland for the winner.
The Mountaineers (11-2), who had won three straight national championships before getting knocked out by the Spiders in last year's quarterfinals, exacted their revenge after Richmond had taken the lead on a remarkable strip and fumble return by Eric McBride with 3:26 left.
Their 11th consecutive victory earned them a trip to Montana to face the top-seeded Grizzlies next Saturday, a spot in the national championship game awaiting the winner.
The finish was wild, beginning with McBride's strip that looked like it might rescue the Spiders after their offense stalled in the fourth quarter, and their defense struggled.
"I kind of put to use what the coaches taught us," the junior linebacker said.
On the play, the Spiders punted and Travaris Cadet fielded it inside his 10 for the Mountaineers. While he was trying to return it, McBride stripped the ball from his arms and took it 8 yards into the end zone, a stunning play that gave Richmond a 31-28 lead.
But the Mountaineers had plenty of time, and used almost all of it in driving 70 yards before Edwards rifled the third-down pass to Cline, just out of the diving Ireland's reach.
"He threw the ball where only one guy could catch it," Richmond coach Mike London said.
Edwards, who ran for a Division I-record 313 yards and had 495 total yards in a playoff victory against the Spiders two years ago, ran for just 51 this time on an ailing right knee. But he ran for TDs of 3 and 16 yards, and completed 21 of 33 passes for 216 yards.
He was 5-for-6 for 46 yards on the winning touchdown drive.
"The last thing we said to Armanti -- you've got to throw the ball," Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said he told the 2008 Walter Payton Award winner before the last drive.
The touchdown capped a 21-point fourth quarter for the Mountaineers, who hadn't led until Edwards' second scoring run, from 3 yards out with 4:27 remaining, gave them a 28-24 edge.
That was before McBride's big play, and the Mountaineers' stunning reply.
Earlier in the quarter, Devon Moore had capped a three-play, 64-yard drive with a 5-yard run, and then started a 73-yard drive with runs of 15, 11 and 22 yards. Moore, who finished with 174 yards on 20 carries, also had a 6-yard burst to set up a first-and-goal from the 3, and Edwards faked the handoff to Moore on the next play and scampered untouched for the TD.
Richmond finished 11-2, played its final game at University of Richmond Stadium before moving to an on-campus field next season, and might soon be looking for a new coach.
London, who guided them to the national title in his first season last year, is said to be high on Virginia's target list as the Cavaliers look to replace the fired Al Groh. London worked twice at Virginia under Groh and is widely respected as a recruiter in the state.
London declined to address speculation that he's a candidate at Virginia.
Like at the start of the game, both teams scored on their first possession after halftime. Appalachian State needed to go just 43 yards after Devin Radford's career-best 46-yard kickoff return. The drive included a 4-yard run by Moore on a fourth-and-2 from the Richmond 35, and the game was tied at 14 three plays later when Moore ran it in from the 19.
The Spiders needed 14 plays to regain the lead. Kendall Gaskins had a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Mountaineers' 36 and Richmond quarterback Eric Ward had an 18-yard run on third-and-13 from the 22. Gaskins ran it in from the 1 to make it 21-14 three plays later.
Richmond had two chances to extend its lead, but settled for field goal tries both times. Andrew Howard missed the first, from 29 yards, but made the second from 27 with 9:23 left.
But then the Spiders stopped moving, and couldn't stop the Mountaineers.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-16||8-17|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||1-1|
|TD||09:06||Ben Keating 2 Yd Run (Andrew Howard Kick)||0||7|
|TD||07:04||Armanti Edwards 16 Yd Run (Jason Vitaris Kick)||7||7|
|TD||08:17||Tre Gray 19 Yd Pass From Eric Ward (Andrew Howard Kick)||7||14|
|TD||12:04||Devon Moore 17 Yd Run (Jason Vitaris Kick)||14||14|
|TD||04:22||Kendall Gaskins 1 Yd Run (Andrew Howard Kick)||14||21|
|FG||09:23||Andrew Howard 27 Yd||14||24|
|TD||08:38||Devon Moore 5 Yd Run (Jason Vitaris Kick)||21||24|
|TD||04:27||Armanti Edwards 3 Yd Run (Jason Vitaris Kick)||28||24|
|TD||03:26||Eric McBride 8 Yd Fumble Return (Andrew Howard Kick)||28||31|
|TD||00:10||Matt Cline 4 Yd Pass From Armanti Edwards (Jason Vitaris Kick)||35||31|