The Collegian
Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Spiders upset No. 2 Appalachian State 33-13 in FCS playoffs

BOONE, N.C. -- All week long, the question for the football team's defense was whether the addition of senior defensive ends Sherman Logan and Lawrence Sidbury Jr. would make a difference during Saturday's game against Appalachian State University.

The answer, judging by Richmond's 33-13 win against Appalachian State -- the second-seeded, three-time defending national champion -- is yes. Logan and Sidbury were both injured when the two teams played a semifinal game in Boone, N.C., last year.

"There's a difference of two players who didn't play last year who had a significant impact this year," Richmond coach Mike London said.

Appalachian State's junior quarterback Armanti Edwards had an NCAA-record 313 rushing yards during last year's semifinal. On Saturday, he rushed for three yards on eight carries.

"I could run it," said Edwards, who is recovering from a knee injury. "But not like I'm used to."

London said he wasn't sure how much of a factor Edwards' injury was, but acknowledged that the team was focused on rushing him, making him move his feet and forcing another player to try to make big plays. The pass rush from Logan, Sidbury and the rest of the Richmond defense did just that.

Last year, the Mountaineers set school post-season records with 55 points, eight touchdowns, 612 yards of total offense, 435 rushing yards and 29 first downs. This year, they had 13 points, two touchdowns, 362 yards of total offense, 39 rushing yards and 20 first downs.

"We made a lot of mistakes out there today that we're not proud of," sophomore wide receiver CoCo Hillary said.

It was the first time since Dec. 16, 2005, that Appalachian State hadn't rushed for at least 50 yards. It was also the first time since Sept. 16, 2006, that an Appalachian State opponent had caught more than three interceptions.

"We would call a play and think, 'this is going to be a good play,'" Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said. "Then for some reason it would blow up in our face."

Edwards threw a career-high five interceptions, contributing to Appalachian State's seven turnovers. Junior defensive back Seth Williams, who started in place of injured junior David Horton, had a career-high three interceptions, and junior defensive back Michael Ireland had his fourth interception of the season.

Sophomore defensive back Justin Rogers had the other interception, his seventh of the season, and broke up three passes. Sophomore running back J'Nnambdi Smaugh and junior defensive lineman Parker Miles each recovered a fumble.

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"We've been preparing all week," Williams said. "We had a good idea what they were going to do."

Sophomore linebacker Patrick Weldon led the team by tying his career high with 11 tackles, including a sack that was one of his career-high four tackles for a loss. The defense's goal this week was to be able to swarm to the ball and stop Edwards, Weldon said.

Moore said: "[No.] 39 [Weldon] was a factor early. But then it got to when it wasn't just 39. ... They've got a great reputation for playing hard on defense and they did."

Offensively, the playmaker was once again senior running back Josh Vaughan, who had 133 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Vaughan, whose rushing yards have reached triple digits nine times this season, needs one more rushing touchdown to tie Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower, class of 2008, for the school record.

Junior quarterback Eric Ward scored the other rushing touchdown and had 121 passing yards. Meanwhile, sophomore wide receiver Kevin Grayson led the team with five receptions and 48 receiving yards.

"It was just a challenge to us to come back and finish the job this time," Ward said about returning to Boone.

For the second-straight week, the Spiders' best play came during the second half. Last week's 38-10 win against Eastern Kentucky University was tied at 10 at halftime and during this week's quarterfinal, Richmond trailed 7-6 at halftime.

The Spiders missed several opportunities to further their lead. Their five penalties cost them 52 yards, and although they finished with seven third-down conversions out of 16 attempts, three of their successful ones were during the fourth quarter.

Junior kicker Andrew Howard missed the first point-after-touchdown attempt and two field goals. But Howard converted the next three PATs and a 26-yard field goal. Junior punter Brian Radford added a 27-yard field goal during the fourth quarter to help the Spiders recover from their early errors.

Appalachian State ended its season with an 11-3 record. The loss to Richmond ended its 13-game postseason winning streak and its four-game postseason winning streak against Colonial Athletic Association opponents.

The Spiders also broke the Mountaineers' 12-game home winning streak. Appalachian State had won 42 of its last 43 games at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

"We made a lot of costly mistakes on our own," senior wide receiver T. J. Courman said. "It's a hard pill to swallow because of what we've been through and how far we've come."

The Spiders, also with an 11-3 record, advance to the semifinals for the second time in school history. They will travel to play the third-seeded University of Northern Iowa at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

London couldn't have asked for a much better first season as head coach. This is just the second time in school history the Spiders have had 11 wins -- the first was last year. The team's 37 wins during the last four years are the most during any four-year period in school history.

"You couldn't write this script better right now," London said. "I'm blessed and thankful for the opportunity to be head coach."

The University of Montana and James Madison University won their quarterfinal games and will play at 8 p.m. on Friday. The championship game is at 8 p.m. on Dec. 19 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"Any road to the championship had to come through this place," London said about Kidd Brewer Stadium. "This is the Mecca of college football."

Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at barrett.neale@richmond.edu

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