|Broken-down bus can't stop Appalachian State from celebrating 3rd straight title|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 15 December 2007 10:48|
A bus carrying several members of the team, including coach Jerry Moore, broke down Saturday afternoon on the ride back to campus, a day after the Mountaineers claimed their third straight national championship.
But even a wait near Knoxville, Tenn., for another bus couldn't dampen Moore's spirits after Appalachian State (13-2) completed the most memorable season in school history.
``It was a great feeling to wake up this morning and see those kids in the lobby with their moms, dads, girlfriends,'' Moore said through his cell phone after taking his seat on the new bus. ``The excitement of winning three in a row is a great deal.''
Behind an undersized quarterback with toothpick legs, a former walk-on turned dominant running back and an improving defense, Appalachian State became the first school to win three straight Football Championship Subdivision titles with a 49-21 win over Delaware on Friday.
The victory came 104 days after the Mountaineers shocked college football by beating then-No. 5 Michigan 34-32 at the Big House, and two months after two losses during a midseason slump.
Nationally, the team will probably be remembered as the little school that beat Michigan. But it's clear an unprecedented third straight national championship means more to the players and coaches.
``Michigan didn't put a ring on our finger,'' quarterback Armanti Edwards said. ``It's just an outstanding game. It'll go in the history books. Nobody had won three in a row. It shows we're the best team in D I-AA this year.''
With the talent Moore has stockpiled, the school nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, N.C., could have the best team in what used to be called Division I-AA for some time.
Edwards, who amassed 773 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns in the final two playoff games, is only a sophomore. Barely 6-foot-0 and 175 pounds, Edwards could enter next season as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
There is plenty of talent at running back even though career rushing leader Kevin Richardson - a former walk-on - is a senior. Much of the defense returns, too. It may be why Appalachian still has two games to schedule for next season, and so far no major program has agreed to play the Mountaineers.
Behind it all is Moore, the former head coach at Texas Tech who was hired at Appalachian in 1989. He withstood some lean years and a change in athletic directors to develop the premier program in the country at this level.
By bringing in speedy players that are considered too small for major programs, the Mountaineers have overwhelmed opponents at their level. Friday's win was their 12th straight playoff victory. They are 39-6 overall in the past three seasons.
The folksy Moore has become an icon around a campus that has taken to its football power. The Mountaineers broke attendance records this year and the school recently approved a stadium expansion.
``I have no agenda. I don't want to coach until there's a certain number of wins,'' the 68-year-old Moore said. ``I want to coach as long as it's fun and as long as I'm making a difference in the program.''
Moore is 167-70 in 19 seasons at Appalachian State. Overall, he's 184-118-2 in 26 seasons.
The latest title almost didn't happen. While Edwards threw three touchdown passes in the Michigan win, he also injured a shoulder that took several weeks to heal. Suffering a post-Michigan hangover, Appalachian lost to Wofford and Georgia Southern and was in danger of not even making the playoffs.
``The Michigan game for a while was a little bit of a distraction,'' Moore said. ``All the fanfare and the notoriety, it still goes on today.''
Moore decided players would only sign Michigan paraphernalia on Mondays for the rest of the season and started turning down some media requests. The team found its focus and finished on an eight-game winning streak.
``It's a whole lot of relief and a whole lot of joy,'' Moore said.
As Moore relaxed and reflected on the record-breaking season on the bus Saturday, he acknowledged he felt a lot of pressure. Back in the summer, Moore would be greeted by fans who would flash three fingers, signaling three straight titles.
``As a matter of fact, when people passed us today, they had four fingers out,'' Moore said.
It's probably why Moore doesn't plan much time off. He's called a coaches meeting for Monday at 9 a.m.
The playoff run means they're behind on recruiting.