BOONE, N.C. — Plagued by seven turnovers, No. 2 Appalachian State University was eliminated from the 2008 NCAA Division I Football Championship with a 33-13 quarterfinal loss to No. 7 Richmond on Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The heart-breaking setback snapped Appalachian’s record string of 13-consecutive postseason victories and ended its reign as three-time-defending national champion.
With the win, Richmond advanced to next weekend’s national semifinals for the second year in a row, where it will face the winner of Saturday evening’s quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Northern Iowa and New Hampshire.
Appalachian (11-3) led 7-6 at the half, but things began to unravel in the third quarter when it turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions after the break, including two interceptions that were returned to inside the ASU five yard line. Richmond (11-3) converted the miscues into 14 points and, combined with a field goal on its opening possession of the half, took a commanding 23-7 lead with 5:46 to go in the third period.
The Spiders left the door open for a Mountaineer comeback when kicker Andrew Howard missed a 33-yard field goal following the Apps’ third turnover of the second half and the Black and Gold responded by marching 80 yards in nine plays, highlighted by 30-yard completion from Armanti Edwards to Blake Elder and capped by a four-yard touchdown toss from Edwards to T.J. Courman. The Mountaineers’ two-point conversion attempt failed but the deficit was cut to 10 points at 23-13.
Things looked even brighter for ASU when it forced a punt on Richmond’s ensuing possession and drove to the UR 40 yard line, but the drive stalled when Edwards was intercepted for the third time in the half. Eight plays later, UR added a field goal to stretch its advantage to 26-13.
The Mountaineers moved the ball into UR territory again on its next series but, again, the promising drive ended with an interception. The Spiders followed with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that melted 7:24 off the clock and culminated with Josh Vaughan’s third touchdown run of the afternoon to make it 33-13 with 1:38 left to play.
Appalachian’s final possession ended with Edwards’ fifth interception of the afternoon, ASU’s sixth turnover in seven second-half possessions. Richmond knelt twice to run out the clock and seal perhaps the biggest victory in its 126-year football history.
ASU held a 362-359 advantage in total yardage, including a 5.6-4.7 edge in yards per play. However, it could not overcome major deficits in rushing yardage (238-39), time of possession (36:45-23:15) and, of course, turnover margin (minus-7) in just its second loss in its last 44 home games.
Despite the five interceptions — three of which came on a ball that went through a receiver’s hands, a play that he was hit as he threw and a route that his target fell during — Edwards finished with 323 yards on 26-of-41 passing and two total touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). His top target was Brian Quick, who caught six passes for a game-high 94 yards. Defensively, Jacque Roman led all players with 15 tackles and fellow linebacker D.J. Smith chipped in with 14.
Richmond was led offensively by Vaughan (32 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns) and defensively by Patrick Weldon (11 total tackles, including a sack and four for loss).
NOTES: Edwards became the Southern Conference’s all-time single-season leader in touchdowns responsible for with 41 (30 passing, 11 rushing), breaking the record of 40 set by Elon’s Scott Riddle in 2007 ... linebacker Pierre Banks finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in games played with 61 ... the loss was ASU’s first in the postseason since a 14-13 setback to Maine in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.