(5) Appalachian State (10-2) at (4) Richmond (11-1)
The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 5th, 7 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: UR Stadium (21,319) -- Richmond, Virginia. Surface: Natural Grass. Television: ESPN Game Plan/ESPN360.com. Announcers: Justin Kutcher and Doug Chapman. Home Record: Appalachian State 6-1; Richmond 5-1. Away Record: Appalachian State 4-1; Richmond 6-0. Series Record: Appalachian State (4-3). Last Meeting: December 6, 2008 (Richmond, 33-13 at Appalachian State - FCS quarterinals). Series Streak: The teams have split the last two meetings. Conference: Appalachian State - Southern; Richmond - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Appalachian State Mountaineers; Richmond Spiders. Sports Network Ranking: Appalachian State (5); Richmond (4). Head Coaches: Appalachian State - Jerry Moore (215-123-2, overall; 188-75 at Appalachian State); Richmond - Mike London (24-4). Playoff Records: Appalachian State (22-13); Richmond (10-6).
GAME NOTES: Richmond and Appalachian State meet in a rematch of last season's quarterfinals in the 2009 FCS playoffs.
The Spiders went on to win the 2008 national championship after taking down the Mountaineers, 33-13, ending an FCS-record, 13-game playoff winning streak against the three-time champs.
Richmond took advantage of hip and knee injuries to ASU quarterback and 2008 Walter Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards (26-of-41, 323 yards, one TD, five interceptions passing) to force seven Mountaineer turnovers. Josh Vaughan rushed 32 times for 133 yards and three TDs for the Spiders.
In the previous playoff meeting in the 2007 semifinals, Edwards rushed for 313 yards and four TDs and passed for 182 yards and three more scores as ASU won 55-35.
Richmond, the No. 4 seed, beat Elon, 16-13 last week to advance to the quarterfinals. The Spiders survived when the Phoenix missed a pair of field goals from 27 and 48 yards in the final two minutes. Parker Miles partially blocked the 48-yard attempt on the final play of the game, forcing the attempt to come up short.
The Spiders' offense compiled an impressive 400 yards of total offense, with third-team All-CAA quarterback Eric Ward (2,503 yards of total offense, 19 TDs, 10 interceptions) registering 276 total yards and a 76-yard touchdown run. The senior's 136 yards rushing in the contest was a career-high.
Running back Justin Forte (999 yards rushing, six TDs) adds to Richmond's 32nd-ranked rushing attack and ran for 96 yards against the Phoenix.
A strong group of wide receivers, led by Tre Gray (46 catches, 13.5 average, three TDs), Kevin Grayson (44 catches, 11.2 average, two TDs) and Donte Boston (32 catches, 15.3 average, four TDs), gives Ward some reliable targets.
Defensively, Richmond has been one of the best teams in FCS the past two seasons. The unit ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense and 14th in total defense.
The Spiders' defense hasn't surrendered more than 21 points in eight straight games and features standouts Buchanan Award nominee Martin Parker (71 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries) at defensive end, linebackers Collin McConaghy (89 tackles) and Eric McBride (84 tackles) and All-American cornerback Justin Rogers (eight pass breakups, three interceptions).
Appalachian State escaped with a 20-13 win over South Carolina State, in a game littered with turnovers. ASU's third-ranked total offense was limited to just 302 yards and one offensive touchdown.
The Mountaineers scored the game-winning touchdown on a botched SCSU field goal attempt in which the snap when over the holder's head, allowing Dominique McDuffie to pick up the loose ball and take it 50 yards to the end zone.
Armanti Edwards (3,296 yards of total offense, 27 TDs, six interceptions tossed a season-high three interceptions and was caught off-guard by the SCSU pass rush most of the afternoon. Edwards is still recovering from a slight ACL sprain that he suffered against Elon, but the senior is expected to be near 100% this weekend.
Running back Devon Moore (1,115 yards rushing, 15 TDs) was limited to just 61 yards on 20 carries against Elon and was slightly banged up, but is expected to start this weekend. ASU's 10th-ranked rushing attack was limited to just 84 yards.
Wide receivers Brian Quick (49 catches, 16.7 average, four TDs) and Matt Cline (69 catches, 11.5 average) have paced ASU's talented group since slot receiver-returnman CoCo Hillary (4,100 combined yards for his career) underwent season-ending knee surgery. Quick had an acrobatic touchdown catch in the win.
Appalachian State's defense has significantly improved over the course of the season and has given up just 10 offensive points per game in the past three contests.
The unit is littered with talent in 2009 Buchanan Award finalist Mark LeGree (63 tackles, seven interceptions) at safety and All-Americans, cornerback Cortez Gilbert (68 tackles) and linebackers D.J. Smith (113 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries) and Jacque Roman (93 tackles).
This game hinges on Edwards' health. If he is mobile and can both run and throw, it will keep the Richmond defense honest and ASU should prevail.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Appalachian State 27, Richmond 21.
12/02 18:49:55 ET