Caulton Tudor

App State starts season at site of biggest victory

Posted August 14, 2014

— Some sports moments you simply don’t forget. One of many for me occurred on the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2007.

In the Triangle, many fans will recall that date as the beginning of the Tom O’Brien era in N.C. State football – a deflating 25-23 loss to Central Florida in Carter-Finley.

But O’Brien, to a degree, was fortunate that day. The Wolfpack score was a second thought to almost everyone by the time news circulated through the stadium – and much of the developed world for that matter – that Appalachian State University had won on opening day at Michigan.

By almost all ratings, the Mountaineers’ 34-32 win stands as the most startling upset in college football history.

Among the contenders for that distinction is State’s 24-7 win over 2nd-ranked Florida State in the second game of the 1998 season.

I was in Carter-Finley stadium for that game, too. But to be honest, those Wolfpack teams were so unpredictable that no outcome was totally shocking.

The following year I watched most of those same State players go to Texas for the opening game in suffocating heat and humidity and leave with a 23-20 win, then return to Raleigh and shut out South Carolina in the ensuing game and eventually beat Clemson with an incredible performance, only to finish the season 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the ACC.

Appalachian’s win at Michigan went a step beyond, almost to the point of being surreal – primarily since NCAA FCS schools (previously Division I-AA) hardly ever beat FBS (Division I-A) opponents. Such games were almost always played at the stadium of the FBS team and the outcomes were routinely one-sided. Michigan had not finished a season with a losing record since 1967 and had not lost a season opener to any opponent other than Notre Dame since 1981.

Jerry Moore, the Mountaineers’ standout coach of the time, even described the trip as a “budget game.” Michigan paid ASU roughly $400,000 for the appearance, and although Moore’s team was at the top of the second-division heap and would finish 13-2, it was a foregone conclusion that the Wolverines would win by 20 or more points.

Not only did Moore’s team win at Ann Arbor, the Mountaineers did it with a last-minute field goal drive – Julian Rauch’s 24-yarder with only 26 seconds left.

A week later, the Wolverines were routed by Oregon, and coach Lloyd Carr was forced to retire even though his team recovered for a 9-4 finish and a bowl win over Florida.

When Appalachian returns to Michigan on Aug. 30 to start the 2014 season, much has changed in both camps.

Moore retired after going 8-4 in 2012 and was replaced by offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield, whose first team went 4-8.

And after much debate and soul-searching, the Mountaineers reached the decision to leave the Southern Conference and the division in which they had flourished for so long.

The game at Michigan in 2014 will mark ASU’s first as a FBS school and its first as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, where 10 other league cohorts will range as far west as Idaho and New Mexico State and south to Louisiana and Alabama.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the prudence of ASU’s jump and a certain part of that discussion won’t change regardless of how this return trip to Michigan unfolds.

Odds are, Brady Hoke’s fourth Wolverine team will not be caught looking ahead to a Sept. 6 trip to Notre Dame and will avoid a repeat of 2007.

But even if it goes poorly for Satterfield and the Mountaineers, history will not change. And a lot of us will never forget that weekend seven years ago when Appalachian State’s coaches and players boarded several buses, made a 1,500-mile round trip from Boone to Ann Arbor and rocked the sports world to its very core.

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  • lewiskr45 Aug 15, 11:38 a.m.

    From the perspective of being located in the northwest corner of NC, high up in the mountains, I... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    Looking at a school like ECU, in the AAC, they have a much wider conference footprint, stretching up and down the east coast and out to Texas as well.

  • lewiskr45 Aug 15, 11:32 a.m.

    From the perspective of being located in the northwest corner of NC, high up in the mountains, I... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    The confernce footprint is not that bad, aside from Idaho and New Mexico. Largely southeastern schools with the possibility of adding a 12th school in Va in the future (possibly more also). Considering New Mexico and Idaho are football only schools, Appalachian would only have to travel to those schools maybe once a year in one sport, probably with financial assistance from the conference.

  • JonW Aug 15, 10:22 a.m.

    From the perspective of being located in the northwest corner of NC, high up in the mountains, I... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    Money can buy a lot of things, and for a public institution that constantly is shorted on state appropriated funds, App will take whatever money it can. As far as rivalries you've got me there. Money can't buy rivalries, though I'm not sure what that has to do with this. It's a good thing one of our bigger rivals is making the move to the same conference with us. Our fan base is as energized and charged for the upcoming move as ever. I'm not saying we'll come out of the gates and dominate. We all know we'll have our struggles. To say we'll finish 10th out of an 11 team conference is a stretch, but I guarantee you that ASU will not go winless in conference play.

  • johnrmccray Aug 15, 10:19 a.m.

    From the perspective of being located in the northwest corner of NC, high up in the mountains, I... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    Also, more than one kid on the block regarding projected finishes in conference. The Sun Belt coaches poll places AppState at 7th. Also, in recent years, the Sun Belt has placed more than the automatic qualifier into the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. Not saying AppState will be getting there anytime soon, but it's chances will be greater if they can restore the basketball team to some of it's 2000's performances.

    Not saying the move to the Sun Belt was the best, judgement will need to be held off. However, I can think of two FBS conferences of similar caliber that are even more spread out.

  • johnrmccray Aug 15, 9:55 a.m.

    I agree with you, VT, in that Jerry Moore should have been allowed to leave on his own terms.... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    Georgia State University is in Atlanta. Much closer than Statesboro.

  • cjw6105 Aug 15, 9:52 a.m.

    From the perspective of being located in the northwest corner of NC, high up in the mountains, I would rather be an independent than have a yearly conference schedule that consisted of South Alabama, Troy, Louisiana, Louisiana Monroe, Arkansas State, Texas State, New Mexico State, Idaho and two teams from Georgia.

    There are some things money can't buy, and rivalries are one of them. Fans may be another.

    Good luck with this season, which won't begin nicely, and if it goes according to Phil Steele, it will see the Apps finishing 10th in this 11-team all-over-the-map hodgepodge collection of scattered schools.

  • johnrmccray Aug 15, 9:47 a.m.

    And word came yesterday that Charlie Cobb left for another Sun Belt school, Georgia State University. See ya Charlie, thanks for riding coat tails. Well, that win was predicted as possible by a few pundits. Kevin Richardson was blindingly quick, Armanti Edwards can scramble, tuck the ball and take off or throw a left handed strike across his body on the run. Not to mention Dexter Jackson was flat-out lightning in a bottle. Team speed. One of the unsung heroes of those NC teams, Kerry Brown!

  • JonW Aug 15, 9:39 a.m.

    I agree with you, VT, in that Jerry Moore should have been allowed to leave on his own terms.... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    I'm not quite sure how we'll regret moving to a conference where we receive more TV money than in the SoCon. In fact, we had to pay money to be broadcast in the SoCon. We have greater national exposure as all of our games will be carried on the ESPN platforms, something that never happened in the SoCon. Our fans were not satisfied with the "private-con" as it became to be known, as we played the likes of Furman, Wofford, and Elon at home. What's wrong with the program actually growing and expanding our footprint?

  • K 309 > Dean 254 Aug 15, 5:10 a.m.

    Go Mountaineers !!!

  • cjw6105 Aug 14, 11:09 p.m.

    I agree with you, VT, in that Jerry Moore should have been allowed to leave on his own terms. And going to the Sun Belt Conference makes no sense to me whatsoever. The team that was once their most distant conference rival, Georgia Southern, is now their closest, geographically, conference rival in the Sun Belt.

    I seriously doubt ASU fans will be thrilled with the endless parade of Gulf Coast teams and other conference foes from parts unknown who will be visiting Boone now, and what is the likelihood that Mountaineer fans will want to take in any road games?

    ASU should look at Campbell as an example of what leaving a good conference to join a distant conference in essentially a different part of the country can do to your athletic program. It nearly ruined Campbell before they finally wised up and returned to the Big South. ASU had the best of both worlds with local rivals and a loyal following in the SOCON.

    They will regret this move, sooner than they think.

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