Appalachian State-Delaware: FCS Championship Game Preview

On Friday night, Jerry Moore and his Appalachian State Mountaineers will take to the field in Chattanooga trying to make history. The two-time defending Division I-AA (or FCS if you’re nasty) Champions are looking to bring home an unprecedented third consecutive national title. Standing in their way are the Blue Hens of Delaware. This is a match-up many followers of FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) football have been waiting for.

There should be plenty of offensive fireworks as both teams feature stud quarterbacks.Armanti Edwards has been putting up super star numbers all season since bursting onto the national scene during App. State’s stunning opening season win at Michigan. Edwards is a special talent who can do it with both his arms and legs. In 14 games this season, the sophomore from Greenwood, SC has passed for 1750 yards with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Even more dangerous on the ground, Edwards has rushed for 1499 yards while finding the end zone 21 times. Joe Flacco is the Blue Hen signal caller and his play has caught the attention of a number of pro scouts who think the senior has a chance to play on Sunday’s next fall. Closing in on 4,000 yards passing (3929 yards) for the season, Flacco has tossed 22 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions.

If Edwards and Flacco aren’t enough to give each team’s defensive coordinator nightmares, App State and Delaware’s offensives also feature an excellent running back. Delaware’s Omar Cuff has rushed for 1861 yards and scored 34 touchdowns. Kevin Richardson joins Edwards in ASU’s potent backfield, posting 1273 rushing yards and scoring 15 touchdowns.

To put the offensive strength of each team in perspective, consider this – Appalachian has scored no less than 28 points in any game this season. Delaware has scored 27 points or more in 12 of their 14 games while scoring 20 in their semifinal win against So. Illinois and only 10 in a six point loss in the regular season finale at Villanova. To get an idea of what Friday night’s game might look like, look at how each team fared against a common opponent – Richmond. Delaware played the Spiders back in early November, losing 62-56 in a 5 overtime shootout. Appalachian played Richmond in the semifinal round of the playoffs, winning 55-35. Both teams also faced James Madison. App. State beat JMU 28-27 while Delaware came out on top 37-34. Do we see a trend here? It could be a tough night for the scoreboard operator as he tries to keep up.

With all these big offensive numbers flying around, it would be easy to discount the defensive units for the ‘Neers and Hens as just plain bad. It seems that Appalachian and Delaware are both trying to disprove the old adage that says that “Defense wins Championships” but a closer look might tell a different story. A key factor in winning championships is also making big plays at critical times during a game. Both team’s defenses have stepped up and made big plays when it mattered the most.

Here is an example….In ASU’s first round playoff game against James Madison, the Mountaineers dream of another title seemed on the ropes. Trailing by 5 with under five minutes left in the game, the Appalachian defense faced its most dire situation of the season. With JMU trying to run the clock out, James Madison picked up nine yards on the first two plays of its possession. However, Corey Lynch stopped back Jamal Sullivan for no gain on third down and on fourth-and-one, defensive tackle Anthony Williams stood up JMU quarterback Rodney Landers to give ASU possession on the James Madison 32 yard line with 2:35 left to play. After a quick go-ahead score by ASU, the defense was asked to come through one final time. The Dukes marched the ball down the field lightning fast but once again, the defense showed up just in time. With just over :25 left and now trailing by a point, JMU had the football on the App. State 9 yard line. Enter Gary Tharrington. The defensive lineman forced a fumble which was recovered by linebacker Pierre Banks, sealing the victory for the Mountaineers.

Much of the credit for the Blue Hens’ semifinal victory over Southern Illinois should go to the defense. After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter on the road last Saturday, the Delaware D took over, allowing only 7 points the rest of the way en route to the 20-17 come from behind victory. Southern Illinois had one last chance to win the game before the Salukis final possession was halted by a interception by Delaware’s Anthony Walter.

In the stands, there will be no shortage of Mountaineer fans. App. State’s entire allotment of 7,800 tickets for the game were sold out within 7 hours of going on sale last Saturday. Delaware will be well represented but will be heavily outnumbered by ‘Neer fans. Delaware sold all of its 3,000 tickets only hours after they went on sale Monday morning. Delaware’s Athletic Director Edgar Johnson told the News Journal of Wilmington, Del. that UD erred in failing to gauge the ticket buying frenzy from App. State (only 275 miles from Chattanooga) when it asked the NCAA for only 3,000 tickets. “That didn’t go into our thinking at all. It probably should have. [I] should have been more aware,” Johnson told the paper. Any extra tickets will be made available through the Chattanooga ticket office. Walk-up sales look to shade in Appalachian’s favor as well. Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium seats 20,668.

As has been the case for the previous two championship game appearances, Greensboro area bars should be packed with black and gold clad fans for Friday night’s game. The crew has taken in the last two championship games at J. Butler’s on New Garden Road in Greensboro and plan to be there on Friday night as well.

While the staff is not known as great prognosticators when it comes to football, we feel confident in picking the Mountaineers to get the three-peat. The Mountaineers are -7 1/2 point favorites against Delaware off shore at and we think App. State can cover that number. We were unable to find an over/under for the game but we put it at about 65 and still like the over. All and all, it should be an old fashioned shootout, Friday night at 8 pm on ESPN2. Our Prediction: App. State 45, Delaware 32. (One final note – Check out the lids that the Blue Hens will be wearing Friday night when they take the field against the Mountaineers…they look very similar to the helmets worn by ASU’s opponent in the season’s first game…ironic huh?)

App. State At A Glance
Boone, North Carolina
Record: 12-2
Coach: Jerry Moore
Wins in 2007 – Michigan, Lenoir-Rhyne,
N. Arizona, Elon, Gardner-Webb, Furman,
The Citadel, W. Carolina, Chattanooga,
JMU, E. Washington and Richmond.
Losses in 2007 – Wofford and Ga. Southern

Delaware At A Glance
Newark, Delaware
Record: 11-3
Coach: K.C. Keeler
Wins in 2007 – William and Mary, West
Chester, Rhode Island, Towson,
Monmouth, Northeast, Navy, JMU,
Del State, N. Iowa and S. Illinois.
Losses in 2007 – New Hampshire,
Richmond and Villanova.

4 thoughts on “Appalachian State-Delaware: FCS Championship Game Preview

  1. Delware has the same paint scheme on their helmets as Michigan. Maybe the Mountaineers will have a BIG HOUSE FLASHBACK Friday night.

  2. Doing anything three times in a row,especially champoinshipss, is tall task. App State are the favorites and should be but number three will not come easy. They need to be ready. Even the powerhouse I-AA teams over the last 20 years, Marshall, Youngstown State, Ga. Southern never won three in a row.

  3. I am interested in hearing what local bettors are thinking on this one. Haven’t seen many games by either team, but looks like Delaware has been struggling in the first half lately. Maybe one should get on App St first half?

    Also, the trends seem to warrant a look at the over, whatever it is (thinking high 50’s – low 60’s, myself).
    Any thoughts?

  4. Sharp…I hope you got down on App in the first half as that is the way it worked out. The over was the right play as well as the Blue Hens got it in gear enough to do their part in the second half.

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