Months after Michigan upset, Appalachian State completes FCS 3-peat

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Appalachian State kicked off this crazy football season with the stunning upset of Michigan. Now the Mountaineers have the perfect bookend: History as Division I-AA's first three-peat national champions.

Armanti Edwards threw for three touchdowns, and Appalachian State jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never trailed in beating Delaware 49-21 on Friday night for a third consecutive title in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"Historic?" left guard Kerry Brown said when asked about the three-peat. "I ain't got to that point yet. ... I'm just thrilled. ... I don't want to sound like a sissy. I hadn't cried in years, but I cried today. It's a great way to go out."

They became only the third team to win consecutive titles last year, but the Mountaineers now have done something that neither Georgia Southern nor Youngstown State could. They returned to a third straight championship game -- and won by their biggest margin yet.

No. 13 Delaware (11-4) came in looking for its second championship five years. The Fightin' Blue Hens had rallied from 10-0 deficits in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Not this time.

"They were as good as advertised," Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said.

The Mountaineers (13-2) won their record 12th straight playoff game and had the game so in hand that fans spilled onto the sidelines with 3:29 left with only the Delaware bench area kept clear. They rushed the field as the final seconds ticked off.

This game was never as close as Appalachian State's 34-32 victory over the then-No. 5 Wolverines on Sept. 1, and the Mountaineers didn't need late-game heroics like Corey Lynch's blocked field goal that clinched that shocking upset.

Not when the Mountaineers scored more points by halftime than in either of their previous two championship victories, fed by their fans who helped turn Finley Stadium into a black-and-gold version of the Big House.

They set a neutral-site record with 23,010 in attendance and stood throughout. They couldn't wait to celebrate and started chanting, "Three-peat, three-peat" midway through the fourth quarter. They were high-fiving players and getting autographs after they got onto the sidelines.

Mark Duncan answered with a 75-yard kickoff return for a TD and drew a flag for throwing the ball at an officer at the end line.

Keeler tried to lead his Blue Hens onto the field at the end to shake the Mountaineers' hands and couldn't with all the fans. He said he went to their locker room to congratulate Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore.

"They should be excited about their third national championship. It is what it is. You can't blame the fans for getting excited about that," Keeler said.

Delaware had All-America running back Omar Cuff and senior quarterback Joe Flacco, a likely NFL draft pick next April. But the Blue Hens lost an early touchdown to official review, which turned into a 14-point swing when Appalachian State drove 99 yards for a TD.

Edwards had 495 yards total offense in the Mountaineers' semifinal victory over Richmond. He was 9-of-15 for 198 yards and ran 18 times for 89 more against Delaware.

He started by connecting with CoCo Hillary on a 41-yard pass on his first throw. His second throw was a 19-yard TD to senior running back Kevin Richardson that made it 7-0.

The Blue Hens lost starting left guard Corey Nicholson to a broken left ankle on first-and-goal on the next drive. A play later, they thought Cuff had tied it up with his 4-yard run only to have the TD wiped off the board by a review that put him down at the 1.

"From the box, our guy said, `Hey, he's in.' They thought they saw the TV review and thought he was in. We thought we were getting our extra point ready," Keeler said. "They only overturn those things if they're definitely not in. He probably definitely wasn't in."

Appalachian State stopped Cuff, who came in with 34 TDs rushing, short on third down, and Flacco overthrew Josh Baker in the end zone on fourth down. The Mountaineers scored in five plays when Devon Moore ran 46 yards untouched for a TD and a 14-0 lead.

The Blue Hens couldn't stop Appalachian State even when the Mountaineers tried to give them the ball.

Richardson fumbled heading into the end zone, but freshman tight end Daniel Kilgore pulled the ball away from Delaware end Matt Marcorelle for a TD and a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Blue Hens finally scored on a 39-yard TD pass from Flacco to Mark Duncan late in the half.

Appalachian State answered in only 21 seconds when Edwards found Dexter Jackson on a 60-yard TD for the 28-7 halftime lead.