"It's like Oklahoma last year," a member of the Trojans' program said recently, referring to an undefeated but overconfident Sooners team that USC waxed 55-19 in the Orange Bowl. "You'd think people would learn."
I-AA TITLE GAME
Gimpy QB Sparks ASU
Appalachian State's Richie Williams was only half a quarterback when he limped onto the field for the last play of the first half of the Division I-AA championship game last Friday night in Chattanooga. Unable to run because of a strained ankle tendon suffered in a semifinal win over Furman on Dec. 10, Williams, the Southern Conference player of the year with 2,104 passing yards and 846 rushing yards during the regular season, was sent in to throw a Hail Mary. That pass fell incomplete, but with the Mountaineers trailing Northern Iowa 16-7 and struggling on offense, coach Jerry Moore went with Williams at the start of the third quarter in an attempt to rally his team.
Wearing an air cast on his heavily taped left ankle, Williams played through the pain and completed 10 of 26 passes for 129 yards, sparking ASU to a 21-16 win and its first national title. "Coach told me in the second half we were going to wing it," Williams said after the game. "I just tried to stay calm and keep everybody else calm."
Williams's heroics nearly overshadowed the play of the Mountaineers' All-America defensive ends, senior Jason Hunter and junior Marques Murrell, who had two sacks each and teamed up for the winning touchdown. With about nine minutes to play, Northern Iowa led 16-14 and had the ball at its 25 when quarterback Eric Sanders dropped to pass. Coming from the left side of the defense, Murrell knocked the ball out of Sanders's hand; Hunter scooped it up at the 15 and dashed into the end zone. It was the third touchdown of the season for Hunter.
Though the defense came through in the end, holding Northern Iowa to 108 yards and sacking Sanders four times in the second half, the night belonged to Williams, who in the third quarter drove his team 79 yards for Appalachian's second touchdown, completing four of five passes for 64 yards. Because his quarterback was unable to run, Moore was forced to scrap the Mountaineers' option plays. "They called an option one time, and I called a timeout because I couldn't run," said Williams. "We had to talk that one over." ASU, which had averaged 204.5 rushing yards per game coming in, wound up with a season-low 46.
"To me, he was 100 percent," Moore said. "It goes without saying, we've got a courageous quarterback."