Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Richmond SemiFinals 12/7/2007

Here we go with the Semifinals:

#6 Richmond (11-2) @ #5 Appalachian State (11-2)

Time: 8pm


Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf
Capacity: 16,650

Jeff Sagarin ratings:

ASU:     69.71

UR:       70.45

Home advantage: 2.59 points

ASU is favored to win by 2 points

Series: ASU leads 3-2

Last Meeting: Appalachian 20 Richmond 3, 11/28/87


In any given game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, when looking at match ups, you can usually depict which team has the edge, whether it be that one team is playing at home, or that one teams strength can match up against another teams weakness. When you get to the semifinals, with four teams remaining, the ability to predict an outcome of a game gets harder. Every team is good now. There is a reason that a team is able to obtain double digit wins and advance through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Appalachian and Richmond are no different. Both teams play really good football. Both teams can get up and down the field and score points and have been able to keep opposing teams out of the end zone. Both teams are fighting for that elusive goal of getting to Chattanooga. Richmond will be seeking its first appearance in the title game, while Appalachian attempts to advance for the third time in as many years. Whoever wins will have earned the right to play for a national championship.


Richmond was able to defeat Wofford in Spartanburg last Saturday. That is something the Mountaineers were unable to do when they had the chance in September. That was two and half months ago and the ASU team that took the field on that day is not the same team that it is today. That team may have been accused of inserting Armanti Edwards into the lineup before he was healthy. Edwards was unsuccessful before injuring his shoulder and giving the reins to Trey Elder. That day was also very warm and muggy in Spartanburg, and it definitely took a toll on the Mountaineer defense that was on the field for 35 minutes. The Mountaineer team that will take the field on Friday night may be the healthiest the team has been all season long. Also take into consideration that the game will not be played in Spartanburg in front of 8500 fans. This game will be played at Kidd Brewer Stadium with a crowd of around 20,000 fans expected. Also, the game time temperature will be slightly cooler then what Richmond faced last week in Spartanburg, and nearly 50 degrees cooler then when ASU played Wofford.

The engine that makes the Richmond Spiders go is Tim Hightower. The Spiders leaned on Hightower’s 140 yards a game rushing to win the Colonial Athletic Conference. Hightower has averaged 24 carries a game this year, including 27 carries per contest in the playoffs. A lot of Hightower’s yards came against inferior opponents. Hightower ran for 246 yards against Northeastern and 295 yards against Bucknell. However, Hightower has slowed toward the end of the season only averaging 109 yards in his last four games, and was held to under 90 yards rushing in two of those contests. Averaging over 100 yards rushing a game it still a pretty big deal, but you can see the trend.


At quarterback for the Spiders is Eric Ward who has passed for 2,133 yards and 14 touchdowns. Ward is a very adequate passer and is a threat to run as he has gained 397 yards rushing on the season. Although the Spiders throw a lot, he is a big key to their offense. If Ward fails to be successful through the air, the Spiders will become a one dimensional attack. Ward will need to hit his receivers early in the game in order for Richmond to be able to score points.

Another part of Richmond’s game may have solid results is the kick off return team. Justin Rogers is ranked 3rd nationally in kick off returns with 31.4 yards per return. Appalachian struggled with kick return defense against Eastern Washington, allowing 2 long returns, one of which went for a touchdown. A positive for Appalachian this week is that they have had a week to correct its mistakes and probably have worked extremely hard on kickoff coverage in practice.


Appalachian arguably played its best defensive game of the season last week. Although special teams allowed Eastern Washington to score three touchdowns, the pressure on the quarterback was an issue all game long. Appalachian never allowed the Eagles to get into a rhythm offensively. When Eastern Washington could manage a drive, it was Corey Lynch that was intercepting a pass and DJ Smith falling on a fumble while the Eagles were in the red zone.

Appalachian ran up a playoff record 529 yards of total offense against Eastern Washington. Devon Moore filled in nicely for Kevin Richardson with 100 yards on the ground. Armanti Edwards continued his hot streak with another 347 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns. ASU has had a two players rush for 100 yards in four of its last six playoff games. Receivers CoCo Hillary (37 yards) and Dexter Jackson (41 yards) stretched the defense for long pass plays that kept the Eastern Washington defense guessing all game long. The Eagles had only allowed 130 yards rushing a game and the Mountaineers exploded for 309 yards on the ground.


This game features some of the best rushing teams in the nation. Appalachian will spread you out and find their holes while Richmond will pound you all night long. Richmond will force the run and try to duplicate the game plan that James Madison tried. The best way to keep Appalachian from scoring is having possession of the ball. Appalachian has not been stopped on offense all year long. James Madison is the only team to hold the Mountaineers under 30 points all season. Appalachian will be able to use Kevin Richardson and Devon Moore and make the Richmond defense guess which back is getting the ball. Turnovers are always key in playoff games. Neither Richmond nor Appalachian would be where they are right now without the untimely miscues by opposing teams. The kicking game may also loom large for both teams in a game that is expected to be very close. Richmond has hit 15/22 field goals this season, with two misses last week against Wofford and three misses in their loss to Towson. Appalachian has hit 17/21 field goals and all of those misses were beyond 40 yards. I think Richmond will put up one heck of a fight, just like James Madison did. The reason the Mountaineers will prevail  is because of the leadership of the seniors. These guys know what it takes to win. The experience in the playoffs the last two seasons will be invaluable. Richmond is a very young team and although they will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years, their time is not right now. Appalachian will be playing in front of a crowd that will be tailgate deprived due to the exam schedule and they will be relentless. I think this game will be decided in the third quarter. Appalachian will score late and force Richmond to pass the ball and they will press the issue and make mistakes. The Mountaineers know the way the way to the Choo Choo. All Aboard!!


The First Pick:

Big Bad Mountaineers    38

itsy bitsy spiders           24

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Richmond Playoffs Round 2 12/6/2008

Here we go with The Quarterfinals:

#7 Richmond @ #2 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

TV: ESPN Gameplan
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     73.04
UR:    73.01
Home advantage: 2.83 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 3 points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 4-2
Last Meeting: ASU 55, UR 35; December 7, 2007


Win or go home. Survive and advance. Whatever you call, all it takes is having more points than the opponent at the end of sixty minutes. You win to play another day. The next day will be this Saturday. For the first time in Appalachian’s playoff run since 2005, they will play an opponent for a second time. In each of the previous three seasons, Appalachian played 12 different schools in as many playoff games. When the Mountaineers take on Richmond on Saturday, the memories of the last game between these two schools are very vivid. It was a spectacular night and every thing went the right way for the Mountaineers. Appalachian hopes to duplicate that same atmosphere and the results in the round of eight.


Richmond was considered a playoff team all year in 2008. They impressed many critics with a very convincing win against Elon on the opening weekend of the season. They followed with a loss to Virginia and win over Towson. That schedule was very similar to Appalachian’s schedule. Appalachian played a tough out of conference game against James Madison, a BCS foe in LSU and an easy game in Jacksonville. The only other losses for Richmond were to playoff teams Villanova and James Madison, who will play this weekend.


Looking at statistics, it is easy to see that Richmond has a great defense. The Spiders have only allowed 98 yards per game on ground and 16.2 points per game. The Spiders have only given up 251 yards of offense per game and have only allowed 23 total touchdowns. However, once you start digging and comparing how Richmond did in their two conference losses, you find something different. Against JMU and Villanova, Richmond gave up 32 points per game. They gave up 226 yards to both teams in the running game. They also allowed 362 yards in offense in both games. All statistics were way up from their season averages against teams that were very well matched against Richmond.

In the 2007 game, all of the Mountaineer defensive focus was on stopping future Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower. This year will be no different as Richmond will use Josh Vaughan, another big running back with NFL potential. Vaughan has run for 1,503 yards and 16 touchdowns. He helps Richmond control the clock as the Spiders averaged 32:40 of possession per game. Most likely, Richmond will try to control the clock, just like they have been all season, and just like every team that has played Appalachian. Quarterback Eric Ward is leader in the huddle. The quarterback has thrown for 2,311 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. More than Hightower in 2007, Ward impressed me with his ability to know when and when not to scramble out of the pocket. Richmond’s offensive line gave up 23 sacks for 141 yards and even with those yards lost, Ward still managed to gain 270 yards on the ground to go along with six touchdowns.


Appalachian got off to a fast start on offense against South Carolina State. Unfortunately the first drive ended with a fumble inside the five yard line, which gave the Bulldogs the chance to score first and force Appalachian to come back from an early deficit. That has been an unwelcome theme for the Mountaineers in the last two games. Appalachian suffered from the turnover bug in its previous game against Western Carolina as well. Against a team like Richmond, turnovers will eventually haunt you. The Mountaineers need to take better care of the ball or else they could find themselves taking a very early exit from the playoffs.


Defensively, Appalachian held their own by only giving up 3.8 yards per carry against SC State. They did not allow any points in fourth quarter and only allowed Malcolm Long to complete 17 of 41 pass attempts. That has been the consistent theme for the Mountaineers all year long. Appalachian has only allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 48% of their passes and has intercepted 19 passes. The run defense has only allowed 4.2 yards per carry as well on the season. The defensive side of the ball has won Appalachian many games and will have to do the same against Richmond. The Appalachian offense will get their points, but the onus will be on the linebackers to contain the scrambling ability of Eric Ward and the running game of Josh Vaughan.


It is hard to talk about these two teams and not hark on the last game they played nearly a year ago at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Armanti Edwards created his personal highlight film as he rushed for a record 313 yards on the ground and had a part of seven total touchdowns. This year will be a little bit different for both teams. Appalachian has been a team riddled by injuries and the lack of consistency from the running backs has forced them to become more pass oriented. That was extremely evident as Armanti Edwards threw for a school record 433 yards against SC State. Edwards has thrown for 631 yards and 12 touchdowns more than the 2007 campaign and has run for 650 less yards than the previous year. Richmond will have a totally different team to prepare for. On the other hand, Richmond’s offensive tendencies and philosophies have remained the same. Richmond still wants to control the ball and run first, pass second. The huge difference is that Appalachian’s defense is much stronger than last year’s unit, allowing only 20.2 points per contest and have been stronger in the run defense as well. Vaughan is a bruiser and does not have the breakaway speed that Hightower did. Ward will have to pass to beat the Mountaineers, but that has been a huge hurdle for Mountaineer opponents. The Mountaineers will have Devin Radford back in the lineup and the Spiders will have to respect his game breaking ability. In all, I think the Mountaineers have too many weapons on both sides of the ball and I don’t think this years Richmond team can match up as well as in 2007. The Richmond defensive backs average 5’10” and I would love to see who matches up against the 6’4” Brian Quick. This game may not be easier for the Mountaineers, but I think the margin of victory will be much more convincing than last week.


The First Pick:


Black Spiders           17

Black Rain                34

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Richmond FCS Playoffs Round 2 12/5/2009

Here we go with The Quarterfinals:

#5 Appalachian State @ #4 Richmond

Time: 7pm

TV: ESPN Gameplan, MASN, MTN 18 Charter Cable Boone
Stadium: Richmond Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 21,319
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     65.12
UR:    73.64

Home advantage: 3.16 points

Richmond is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 11 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 4-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 13, Richmond 33, December 6, 2008


Richmond and Appalachian State were nearly destined to meet in the 2009 playoffs. In the last two seasons, both teams have traded twenty point blowout victories, and both teams probably felt like they could have played better in their respective losses. The rubber match is set for Saturday, and for the first time, it will be held in Richmond. Both teams seem to be very evenly matched and the stage is set for a great game, even though Richmond is favored. Both teams had tough games in the first round, but that is exactly what the playoffs are all about. You fight to play another day and you fight for the chance to be the last one standing. Both teams know what it is like to be the last one standing as they represent the last four national champions. Both teams will bring the everything to the table on Saturday and leave nothing in the tank. The winner will outlast the other and they will feel it. Will you?


Once again, its another week and another familiar opponent. For the third straight year, Appalachian and Richmond will face each other in the playoffs. Richmond is coming off its first national championship and Appalachian fans know exactly what it feels like to be back in the playoffs with a chance to repeat as champions. In fact, Appalachian fans want that feeling back so badly, that they plan to make Appalachian players feel like Richmond Stadium is their own. Appalachian expects around 5,000 fans dressed in black and gold to be in Richmond to support their team. Richmond has averaged well under 10,000 fans in six home games this season, so the Appalachian fans could become a big factor in this game.


For the second straight week, the Appalachian defense will have to defend a big quarterback. Eric Ward is not quite as big as South Carolina State quarterback Malcolm Long, but he plays just as a big. Ward is 6’2” and weighs in at 210 pounds. His rushing statistics are down from the past two seasons, but he can still move. Ward ran for a career long 74-yard touchdown run last week against Elon and finished the game with 136 rushing yards. Ward’s passing numbers have  fallen off in 2009 as well. Ward has thrown 10 interceptions this year, with four of those coming in his last two games and has not thrown a touchdown pass in either game. In fact, in his last four games, Ward has only tossed three touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. In each game that Ward has attempted thirty or more passes this season, he has thrown an interception. Half of his interceptions have come in those four games (Delaware, VMI, Villanova and William & Mary).


More importantly, when you think about Richmond, the first thought that comes to mind is not a high octane passing offense. Recently, Richmond has been more known as a power running football team. However, running the football has not been as successful for the Spiders as it has been in the previous two seasons. In 2007, current Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower lead a rushing attack that compiled 234 yards per game. In 2008, Josh Vaughn led the Spiders to 187 yards per game. This season, that number has plummeted to 160 yards per game. Hightower and Vaughn ran for over 1800 yards in each of those respective seasons. Justin Forte has ran for 999 yards, or about 83 yards per game. Defensively for Appalachian, they have not allowed a team to rush for over 100 yards in three straight games, including five of its last six games. In those six games, the Mountaineers have only given up 78 yards per game on the ground.

For several weeks in a row, we have talked about how the Appalachian defense has been carrying the team and it has continued to impress. Last week they held South Carolina State to just 229 total yards, 15 first down and six points. The lone Bulldog touchdown was an interception return. South Carolina State only possessed the ball for 23:44. The Appalachian secondary has collected 17 interceptions on the season, with nine coming in the last four games. Defense will be a big key this weekend, and the defense who plays the best, may carry their team to the next round.


It is hard to talk about Appalachian and not mention how explosive the offense can be, despite several straight weeks of below average production. It seems quite obvious that the season ending injury to wide receiver CoCo Hillary may have had some effect. As has been well documented, Armanti Edwards was injured against Elon and has not been as explosive since then. Edwards worked with a limited playbook against South Carolina State and did not play the previous week against Western Carolina. Saturday will mark three weeks since the injury occurred and the coaches are very optimistic that Edwards will be close to full strength. The Appalachian offense revolves around Edward’s ability to run on designed play and scrambles. When the Appalachian offense is at its best, Edwards ability to run forces the defense to devote and extra defender to stopping him, which in turn creates clearer lanes to throw the football. When opposing defenses are guessing on each play, the Appalachian offense clicks.


During playoff football, every single play is scrutinized. One penalty or one missed kick can make a difference each week. Richmond and Appalachian State know that all too well. Richmond dodged two bullets in the fourth quarter of their win over Elon, as the Phoenix failed to cash in on two field goals late in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game. Appalachian was facing a most probably deficit when South Carolina State lined up for a chip shot field goal with under eight minutes to play. A botched snap that sailed past both the holder and the kicker led to the go ahead touchdown for Appalachian. This week may be no different. Both defenses have been playing extremely tough football as of late and points may be tough to come by. Both teams have the ability to score points, but playoff football is all about trying to not make mistakes. Appalachian and Richmond combined for eight turnovers last week. Any repeat of those type of performances will certainly make it difficult for either team to fulfill their dreams of another national championship. For Richmond, they will continue to play as they have been all season. In games this season where the final score was within one score, Richmond ran the ball on average on 54% of their plays. In games where Richmond won easily, they averaged running on 65% of their plays. Appalachian must contain the Richmond ground game. The story has been the same for the last three years. If the Appalachian defense can force long yardage situations on second and third down, it will force Richmond to throw, where they have not been successful as years past. Richmond attempted more passes than had rushing attempts in only three games this season, which included their loss to Villanova. A Richmond team that is forced to throw plays right into the hands of the Appalachian defense. Defensive ends Jabari Fletcher and Lanston Tanyi have combined for 14 sacks on the year. The kicking game will also be important to both teams. Richmond kicker Andrew Howard is 12/20 on the season and has only connected on five of his last eleven. Appalachian State kicker Jason Vitaris is 18/25 on the season and has connected on his last four attempts. Howard has missed two extra points on the season, one that cost the Spiders a potential tie in their loss to Villanova.

The First Pick:

Eight Legs                16

Mountaineers           24