CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - The Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens faced some difficult competition on their way to the FCS title game. So for them, it's only fitting that they must play two-time defending champ Appalachian State.
``To be the best, you have to beat the best,'' Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said. ``Now's our chance to see if we can beat the defending national champions, and the only fitting way to be national champion is to beat the defending national champions.''
The Blue Hens, trying for their second national title in five years, beat top-ranked and previously undefeated Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals. But the Mountaineers will present a different challenge.
Fifth-ranked Appalachian State is the darling of college football for kicking off a crazy season by becoming the first FCS team to beat a ranked team from the bowl subdivision.
That 34-32 win at Michigan is celebrated in a variety of keepsakes up for sale on the Mountaineers' Web site. Even Keeler had to cheer Appalachian State's victory.
``I think it gives credibility to our level of football,'' he said.
The Mountaineers (12-2) have another chance to make history Friday night against the 13th-ranked Blue Hens (11-3) of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Appalachian State can become the first Division I team to win three consecutive national championships since 1946 when Army won its third straight title. The Mountaineers already are in rare company as one of only three programs which have won back-to-back titles in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly the Division I-AA level.
The Mountaineers, on a record 11-game winning streak in the postseason, also are only the fifth to play in this FCS title game three straight years.
``Winning (Friday), that right there will do it there. You'll be remembered for that always,'' senior running back Kevin Richardson said. ``You always want to go out with a bang. We're going to come out and play our hearts out and hopefully be successful.''
The Blue Hens aren't without their own title experience. Four fifth-year seniors remain from the team that beat Colgate 40-0 for the title in 2003. This is Delaware's sixth title game appearance, including a 1979 Division II championship.
The Blue Hens are led by All-American running back Omar Cuff, who has 1,861 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns, and Joe Flacco, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback who has had pro scouts studying him most of this season.
He has thrown for 3,929 yards with 22 TDs and only five interceptions. The Blue Hens average 37.3 points and 462.6 yards offense per game.
``I was wondering if it's too late for him to come out early,'' Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said of Flacco. ``He could come out today as far as I'm concerned. The Eagles or the Jets, someone probably could use a quarterback.''
Moore has All-American safety Corey Lynch in a secondary that will be without cornerback Justin Woezeah, one of two players left home for disciplinary reasons.
Appalachian State has won seven straight and will counter with sophomore quarterback Armanti Edwards, who totaled 495 yards of offense in the Mountaineers' 55-35 semifinal victory over Richmond.
``He's playing at a level faster than everybody else on the film,'' Keeler said.
The Mountaineers of the Southern Conference average 483.2 yards total offense and 42.3 points. Edwards also can pitch out to Richardson in their spread offense, and their career rushing leader has 1,230 yards this season.
Keeler said every time a shootout is predicted, defenses usually take exception.
``Our defense has been much maligned the last couple weeks,'' Keeler said. ``We've played some pretty good offenses, and we've done a good job against them.''

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