Editor’s Note: This is another article in a continuing series of articles from past FCS championship games. This is the game story from Appalachian State’s victory over Massachusetts in 2006.
By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
CHATTANOOGA, TN. — There were some who wondered early in the week whether Kevin Richardson’s sore right shoulder would allow him to play in the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
Not only did Richardson play, he carried Appalachian State to a 28-17 victory over Massachusetts Friday night before a record crowd of 22,808 at Finley Stadium to give the top-ranked Mountaineers their second consecutive national championship.
Richardson, playing with a bruised trapezoid muscle injured during the first round of the playoffs and aggravated last week, rushed a season-high 30 times for 179 yards and four touchdowns as ASU (14-1) became only the third program in Football Championship Subdivision history to earn back-to-back titles.
“When I get down on the field, I’m a whole different person,” said Richardson. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’ve to make the most of it.”
There were few surprises in this game, particularly from the ASU offense.
“It was no mystery coming in,” said UMass coach Don Brown. “We knew we had our hands full. Richardson is a great back, he is even better in person.”
After UMass (13-2) had tied the game at 14-all on Liam Coen’s 17-yard scoring strike to tight end Pete Listorti with 4:22 left in the third quarter, Appalachian State showed its championship character with two time-consuming drives to put another title on its mantle piece.
The Mountaineers responded on a 15-play, 71-yard drive that milked nearly six minutes off the clock. Richardson, running ASU’s patented zone play time and time again, gained 48 yards on the drive, including the final four to give the Mountaineers a 21-14 lead with 13:22 left.
The Minutemen responded by marching to the Appalachian State 22, with a 40-yard strike from Coen (20-of-33 for 221 yards and two interceptions) to Listorti keying the drive. But the Mountaineers held at that point and forced UMass to settled for a 42-yard Chris Koepplin field goal that made it 21-17 at the 8:46 mark.
But ASU clinched the game with another 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes. Freshman quarterback Armanti Edwards (15 carries 81 yards rushing, 12-of-19 passing for 146 yards) picked up two crucial first downs on third and longs, scrambling for 15 yards on one play and completing a 15-yard pass to another true freshman, Josh Johnson.
The completion to Johnson got the ball to the UMass 22 and Richardson finished off the Minutemen from there. His two-yard smash at the end of the drive not only gave ASU an 11-point lead with 1:51 remaining, it also was his 30th rushing TD of the season, breaking the NCAA record set by Colgate’s Jamaal Branch in 2003.
ASU safety Corey Lynch put the final wrapping on the championship celebration with an interception to end the final UMass possession.
“Let me tell you something, UMass is a good football team,” ASU coach Jerry Moore said. “They’ve got a good defense to begin with. I almost quit watching tapes of them. That’s the reason they are here. It isn’t an accident.”
UMass played its game plan to near perfection in the first half as Steve Baylark (24 carries, 133 yards) ripped through the Mountaineer defense. The Minutemen scored on its opening drive, moving 80 yards in eight plays to go ahead 7-0 on Matt Lawrence’s one-yard burst.
“I think we came into the game prepared,” said Baylark, who ran 15 times for 89 yards in the first half. “I knew I’d give it my all and I knew the team felt the same way.”
But the Minuteman squandered several other opportunities and Appalachian State took advantage.
“We never got discouraged when they scored,” said ASU defensive end Marques Murrell. “We just kept our focus and didn’t let that touchdown get us down.”
It helped when the Appalachian State responded with two first-half scoring drives.
Richardson evened the score with a 45-yard scamper late in the first period and the Mountaineers took the lead with 49 seconds remaining in the half.
A 35-yard hookup between Edwards and William Mayfield on the first play of the drive advanced the ball into UMass territory and the running trio of Edwards, Richardson and freshman Devon Moore took over from there.
Richardson squirted to the outside and into the end zone on a six-yard rumble to give the Mountaineers a 14-7 advantage at the break.
“They have a great offense,” said UMass All-American safety James Ihedigbo. “They found some kinks in our defense and made the most of it.”
Appalachian State out-rushed UMass 285-151 and won the total offense battle 431-372. Even more important, the Mountaineers beat the Minutemen in the turnover battle two interceptions to one.
But the biggest number was four touchdowns from Richardson, the little junior running back that nobody wanted out of high school.
The former ASU walk-on has 15 100-yard rushing performances in his Mountaineer career, but none were bigger than the one on Friday night.
“It’s always great to come from nowhere to being successful,” Richardson said. “If I didn’t get the ball the whole game, I’d still be happy because we won the championship.”