NEWARK, Del. - You don't have to convince Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler that Chattanooga is a fine place to be in December.
Delaware, which won the national championship in the Tennessee city four years ago, will leave today for a Friday date with two-time defending champion Appalachian State for the Football Championship Subdivision crown.
"One of the great times in my life was being at that stadium," Keeler said of the 40-0 win over Colgate in 2003. "Is there something more than being immortal?"
The game at 20,668-seat Finley Stadium on the campus of Tennessee-Chattanooga is sold out.
'To be the best, you want to beat the best," said Keeler. "If we can beat Appalachian State, that's the way you want to do it to become the national champions."
In each of their last two outings, the 11-3 Blue Hens won on the road after facing 10-point first-quarter deficits against top-10 opponents. The Football Championship Subdivision is the new name for the NCAA's Division I-AA.
Delaware advanced to meet Appalachian State (12-2) by downing No. 4 Southern Illinois, 20-17.
In the quarterfinals, the Blue Hens knocked off top-rated Northern Iowa, 39-27, after scoring 19 straight points in the second quarter.
"I think this is a championship-caliber team," Keeler said. "You can't worry about what's at stake. The last three games, we just played. Northern Iowa was the most hostile environment I've been in. We beat No. 1 and No. 4 on the road. Who are you afraid of?"
Including No. 10 Delaware State, which Delaware defeated, 44-7, at home in the first round, the combined record of the No. 9 Blue Hens' playoff opponents was 34-2.
"The guys don't look at the scoreboard," said Keeler, who was a member of the 1979 Delaware squad team that claimed a national championship.
"I joke that I just show up on game day. These guys have it. It's their team. I'm in charge, and they know that, but they've taken ownership. This team has all of the intangibles. There's nothing like winning two huge games on the road."
Last fall, Delaware finished 5-6 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Keeler is 8-1 in the postseason with the Blue Hens.
Appalachian State, which made national news when it opened the season with a 34-32 triumph over Michigan before a crowd of 109,218 in Ann Arbor, claimed its berth against Delaware with a 55-35 victory over Richmond in the semifinals.
The Mountaineers, who also earned playoff wins over James Madison, 28-27, and Eastern Washington, 38-35, are the No. 6-ranked team. All three of Appalachian State's playoff wins came at home.
Delaware's Local Heroes
Delaware, which plays Appalachian State in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Friday in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, has these local players on its roster:
No. Name Class Pos. Ht. Wt. High School
1 Kervin Michaud Jr. WR 5-10 175 Pennsbury
3 Scott Bradish Fr. QB 6-4 195 Council Rock N.
5 Joe Flacco Sr. QB 6-6 230 Audubon, N.J.
7 Sean Scanlon Fr. QB 6-1 195 Camden Cath.
9 Anthony Walters Fr. DB 6-1 190 Cardinal O'Hara
12 Kirk Harbaugh Fr. DB 6-0 166 Clearview
14 Jon Heydt Jr. WR 5-10 185 St. Mark's (Del.)
15 Mike Perry Fr. K 5-8 180 West Deptford
18 Mick Purzycki So.WR 5-9 180 Tatnall (Del.)
22 Jerry Butler So.RB 5-9 185 George Wash.
27 Jared Bradley So.RB 6-0 225 Strath Haven
36 Ted Shea Jr. LS 5-11 205 Tatnall (Del.)
38 Marvin McKinnie Jr. DB 5-9 152 Woodbury
43 Jeremy Simkins Fr. DB 6-3 170 Schalick
47 Jon Striefsky So.K 6-1 185 North Penn
54 Scott von Duyke Fr. DL 6-3 245 Tatnall (Del.)
58 Chris Daino Fr. OL 6-5 295 Neshaminy
60 Kevin Letkiewicz Fr. LB 6-0 220 Upper Merion
65 Josh Howley Fr. LB 5-11 225 St. Joe's Prep
74 Kevin Uhll Fr. OL 6-4 250 North Penn
78 Sam Burrows Fr. OL 6-3 295 Concord (Del.)
81 Tommy Crosby Fr. WR 6-5 195 Hammonton
86 Mark Schenaur Fr. WR 6-3 195 Absegami
93 Demitrius Hester Fr. DL 6-3 300 Paulsboro
94 Michael Atunrase Fr. DL 6-2 235 Yardley