RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Armanti Edwards threw a 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 defending champion Richmond in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
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.
Article continues below ...
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 a diving defender’s reach.
The drive capped a 21-point fourth quarter for Appalachian State, which hadn’t led until Edwards’ second scoring run, from 3 yards out with 4:27 remaining, gave it a 28-24 edge.
Earlier, 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 give Appalachian State a first-and-goal from the 3, setting up Edwards’ run. He faked the handoff to Moore and scampered untouched into the end zone.
The victory was the 11th in a row for the Mountaineers, and earned them a trip to Montana to play the top-seeded Grizzlies next week. Montana beat Stephen F. Austin 51-0 earlier.
Edwards, who ran for a Division 1 record 313 yards in a playoff victory against the Spiders two years ago, finished with just 51 on an ailing right knee. But he also scored the Mountaineers’ first touchdown on a 16-yard burst and completed 21 of 33 passes for 216 yards.
He was 5 for 6 for 46 yards on the winning touchdown drive.
Richmond finished 11-2.
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 the Mountaineers did not.
The Spiders led 14-7 at halftime, using the field position gained by a punt downed at Appalachian State’s and a three-and-out defensive stand to set up a 49-yard drive.
Ward kept the drive alive with an 8-yard pass to Jordan Mitchell on third-and-4 from the Mountaineers’ 43, and three plays later, Tre Gray took a short pass 19 yards for the TD.
The game started in brutal conditions, but neither offense seemed to notice.
Richmond took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in 12 plays to Ben Keating’s 2-yard dive, but the Mountaineers answered quickly. They went 75 yards in just seven plays, with Edwards running 16 yards for the touchdown on his first attempt to run in the game.