CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Appalachian State kicked off the football season with the stunning upset of Michigan. The Mountaineers closed it by becoming 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, last night for a third consecutive title in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Mountaineers became only the third team to win consecutive titles last year, but now they 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 in five years. The Fightin' Blue Hens had rallied from 10-0 deficits in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Not this time.
Joe Flacco, a former star at Audubon High in Camden County, was 23 for 48 for 336 yards and a touchdown for Delaware.
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 minutes, 29 seconds 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.
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.
Delaware had all-American running back Omar Cuff and Flacco, a likely NFL draft pick in 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. The Blue Hens failed to score.