No. 3 UMass Falls To No. 1 App State In NCAA Final, 28-17

Matt Lawrence and Steve Baylark celebrate UMass' first touchdown of the game.

Matt Lawrence and Steve Baylark celebrate UMass' first touchdown of the game.

Dec. 15, 2006

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Appalachian State put the ball in Kevin Richardson's hands with its second straight NCAA Division I-AA title at stake.

Richardson's fourth touchdown sealed Appalachian State's 28-17 victory over Massachusetts on Friday night. The former walk-on finished with 179 yards.

His third touchdown put the Mountaineers (14-1) ahead 21-14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He added another for 2 yards with 1:51 left that gave him the I-AA record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 30.

"Whenever I've got an opportunity to do something, I try to give it all I've got," Richardson said. "If I didn't get the ball the whole game, I'd still be happy as long as we won that championship."

Appalachian State became the first team to win consecutive crowns in six years.

The Minutemen (13-2), hoping to win their first title since 1998, cut it to 21-17 on Chris Koepplin's 42-yard field goal with 8:46 left.

Appalachian State then took 6:46 off the clock as Richardson ran 10 times in a long drive before capping it with his last touchdown.

"We just kept doing what we've been doing all year," Richardson said.

UMass got the ball back, but Appalachian State's Corey Lynch had an interception to seal it.

Appalachian State is the first team to take home the newly named NCAA Division I Football Championship. The NCAA is phasing out the terms Divisions I-A and I-AA that applied to football. I-A is now the Football Bowl Subdivision, while I-AA is the Football Championship Subdivision.

Georgia Southern was the last team to win consecutive crowns in 1999 and 2000.

"Any time you win the first one, you don't know what to expect," Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said. "It wasn't about the trophy. It was about beating UMass and playing at our very best. The trophy is a product of playing our very best. Both trophies and both championships have their place."

The large contingent of Appalachian State fans, who didn't have to travel far from Boone, N.C., swarmed the field as the final seconds ticked off the clock and celebrated as fireworks went off.

"It was like playing at home almost," Moore said.

Appalachian State was ranked fourth nationally in rush offense, and Richardson came into the game with 1,497 yards on the ground.

Richardson broke the TD record of 29 set by Colgate's Jamaal Branch in 2003. Richardson hurt his shoulder during last week's semifinal game, but he didn't appear to have any problems Friday.

"When I'm on the field, I'm a whole different person. I forget about stuff like that," he said.

The Mountaineers' freshman quarterback, Armanti Edwards managed the game well and finished 12-of-19 for 146 yards. He also ran 15 times for 81 yards, and Appalachian State totaled 285 yards on the ground.

"It was no mystery coming in. We knew we had our hands full," UMass coach Don Brown said. "I thought obviously Richardson is a good back with great speed and is even better in person."

Richardson's counterpart for UMass, Steve Baylark, tried to carry the Minutemen. He ran for 133 yards on 24 carries.

"I knew I'd give it my all, and I know the team felt the same way," Baylark said. "We definitely didn't want to change our game plan. We came in here expecting to run, and we did."

UMass tied it at 14 in the third quarter on Liam Coen's 17-yard pass to Brad Listorti, who tiptoed a few yards down the sideline to stay in bounds and score.

The Minutemen got the ball after James Ihedigbo intercepted a pass by Edwards at the UMass 19, stopping Appalachian State's first prolonged drive of the second half.

UMass had not allowed an opponent to score in the second half during the playoffs, but Appalachian State responded with a drive that lasted nearly 6 minutes and was capped by Richardson's 4-yard run with 13:22 remaining.

The Minutemen then had to settle for a field goal. Appalachian State got the ball back and scored to put the game away.

UMass scored on its first possession when Matt Lawrence ran through the pile a yard for a touchdown.

Appalachian State tied it at 7 at the end of the first quarter on Richardson's 45-yard touchdown run. He ran up the middle and then veered left toward the end zone to avoid defenders.

Richardson put the Mountaineers ahead 14-7 on his 6-yard scamper with 49 seconds left before halftime.

The drive started after a young woman wearing an Appalachian State jersey and holding a big yellow foam finger ran onto the field during a television timeout. She was escorted away by security.

The attendance was announced at 22,808, a sellout and overflow crowd and the largest for the I-AA title game since it moved to Chattanooga in 1997.



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