CHARLESTON - They are calling it "The Samford Scramble" and "Nintendo Meets Harry Houdini." It was No. 2 on ESPN SportsCenter's top 10 plays of the weekend.
Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards avoided a Samford tackler, dropped the football and picked it back up, sidestepped a second sacker, then somehow found a wide-open Cedric Baker for a 16-yard gain and a first down while being hit by a third tackler.
"Just incredible," Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said this week.
Some Appalachian State fans have taken to telling Armanti jokes in the style of Chuck Norris one-liners, as in "Superman wears Armanti pajamas," and "Armanti can win a game of Connect Four in just three moves."
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Asked for his view, Edwards was modest.
"I just think about how close it was to being a blooper," said the 6-foot, 184-pound senior from Greenwood. "I dropped the ball when I tried to throw it the first time. I'm just lucky the offensive line was still blocking, and I could get the ball back and get it off."
Higgins, whose Bulldogs face Edwards today at Johnson Hagood Stadium, knew the skinny left-hander would be a difference-maker when he tried to recruit Edwards out of Greenwood High four years ago.
But with two FCS national titles, three Southern Conference championships, an epic upset of Michigan in 2007 and untold millions in publicity for Appalachian State, Edwards has exceeded those expectations.
"We felt he would be that guy you can build an offense around," said Higgins, who has watched Edwards account for 12 touchdowns in three victories against The Citadel. "That's why we went after him first. And he has improved over the years. His decision-making has gotten better, and the things he's done with games on the line are incredible. You have to keep in mind, he's dealt with injuries over the years. His toughness is remarkable."
The latest chapter to the Edwards' legend has been written this season, after he almost lost the small toe on his right foot in a lawn-mowing accident in August. The injury required 35 stitches.
"I really don't know, to be honest," Edwards said when asked how scared he was. "I was just shell-shocked when it happened. I didn't have time to think about all the what-ifs and what could have happened."
That kept him out of a season-opening loss at East Carolina, but he has rebounded to hit 70.1 percent of his passes and rush for three touchdowns in the past two games, a loss to McNeese State and last week's 20-7 victory against Samford.
After an early dismissal from the playoffs last year, Edwards wants to lead the 10th-ranked Mountaineers back to the FCS title. He is on pace to graduate in December with a degree in graphic arts and, with a 2-year-old daughter to care for, hopes for a shot at the NFL, where the proliferation of "Wildcat" offenses might help him.
"As long as this season plays out well, and I stay injury-free, I think the future could be pretty bright," he said.