Appalachian State defeats UMass to repeat as I-AA champs

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

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

"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

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.