Remembering an upset for the ages

Kevin Richardson

Seven years ago, a little-known school from Boone, North Carolina, went into the Big House and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

Appalachian State's 34-32 win at Michigan marked the first time an FCS team had ever beaten a ranked FBS opponent. It also helped change the course of both programs forever.

As the two teams prepare to meet again on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we take a look at how the 2007 game happened and how its impact is still being felt today in this oral history:

An 'opportunity' arises

Lloyd Carr's Wolverines were ranked No. 5 in the preseason and were viewed as legitimate national title contenders, with stars like offensive tackle Jake Long, quarterback Chad Henne, receiver Mario Manningham and running back Mike Hart all returning, though the team did lose seven defensive starters from the 2006 Rose Bowl squad. Appalachian State had won back-to-back FCS national titles. Michigan and Appalachian State both had late openings on their 2007 schedules, and the game was not announced until February of that year. The Mountaineers received a $400,000 guarantee.

Jerry Moore, Appalachian State head coach, 1989-2012: Jay Sutton, our associate AD, came to me and said Michigan had contacted him about a game. My first thought was, "Whatever it takes, let's play them." Most people refer to games like that as money games. I always referred to it as an opportunity game. I said, "We'll never play them again. We'll go there one time. It's a great opportunity for this school and a great opportunity for our guys to do something they'll remember the rest of their lives."

Corey Lynch, Appalachian State safety, 2004-07: They were loaded.

Greg Mathews, Michigan receiver, 2006-09: To me, that was probably one of the most talented teams Michigan has ever had. Unfortunately, it didn't show all the time.

Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State receiver, 2004-07: We were tight-knit. We had a lot of swagger about us, coming off those two national championships. We knew we had a lot of talent on our team, and we knew we were ready to play against everyone.

ASU's Corey Lynch: Our confidence level was as high as any FCS team's could ever be.

ASU's Jerry Moore: We were pretty realistic about knowing our personnel compared to their personnel. So we didn't start getting ready for them in August. We started getting ready as soon as we knew the game was happening. We knew that conditioning was going to be huge.

U-M's Greg Mathews: I had never heard of them. Even watching their film, it was really grainy and bad quality. I felt like I was watching a high school highlight tape or something. I personally wasn't worried or concerned about the game.

Carlos Brown, Michigan running back, 2006-09: I had some friends who played in the same league as them, so I knew they had a lot of athletes. But it never crossed my mind that they had a shot at beating us.

Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State quarterback, 2006-09: During our summer workouts, they played the Michigan fight song over and over. It made everybody annoyed. We had watched a lot of film of their game against Ohio State [in 2006] and Michigan was having a hard time stopping the spread. That gave us a lot of confidence right there.

ASU's Jerry Moore: We always thought, if we could win the special teams, we might have a chance.


Game week

Appalachian State was such a big underdog that there was no betting line on the game at most Las Vegas sports books. Maize n Brew, a Michigan fan blog, began its prediction with, "Um, it's going to be ugly."

U-M's Greg Mathews: I would say we lost that game probably the week before. I'll speak for myself, and I know there were obviously some of my teammates doing the same thing as well. It was welcome week, where all the students had come back to school and class hasn't started yet and we just got out of camp. Throughout that week, there were a bunch of parties. Every night of the week, it was like a crazy, insane party. I just didn't manage that very well. Guys were missing practice, coming to practice hungover, having to sit out because they were hungover. We lost that game that week.

Donovan Warren, Michigan cornerback, 2007-2009: Me and Greg were in different classes. It was my freshman year, so I was real fired up to prove myself. I wasn't aware of any that partying stuff. I felt like the guys on the team were focused, for sure.

ASU's Jerry Moore: We got rained out here on that Thursday so we had our typical Thursday practice up there [in Ann Arbor on Friday]. The intensity level of that practice, the concentration level -- you could tell, not that we were going to win, but that we were going to be ready to play and play hard.

ASU's Corey Lynch: I still remember our walk-through. There were so many seats in that stadium. It seemed like it went on forever.

Julian Rauch, Appalachian State kicker, 2006-09: Coach [Moore] said, "Guys, this is a big stadium. Look around, and enjoy it right now. But it's just a lot more concrete."

ASU's Armanti Edwards: Corey did a great job. He said, "Yeah, there might be more people here than we've ever seen. But out on the field, it's just their 11 versus our 11. They bleed just like us."


The game: 'We accomplished something major'

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first, as Michigan took the opening possession 67 yards for a touchdown.

ASU's Corey Lynch: They came out on fire. I just remember our D-line wasn't doing the best of jobs, and they had Jake Long sitting there throwing people around.

But on the Mountaineers' third play from scrimmage, Edwards threw a short slant pass to Jackson, who took it 68 yards for a touchdown and a 7-7 tie.

ASU's Dexter Jackson: We ran a little pick, a delayed slant. I think they were surprised at not just my speed, but everybody's speed.

ASU's Armanti Edwards: I don't think they realized that we were just as fast if not faster than their skill players. I think we kind of stunned them a little bit.

U-M's Donovan Warren: I remember after that slant, I was like, "OK, they came to play. They're not backing down at all."

ASU's Jerry Moore: We knew we weren't going to be able to hold the ball very long. We were going to have to get rid of the ball quick. The play that Dexter scored on, that ball was thrown to him in less than two seconds.

U-M's Greg Mathews: That was really before the spread phenomenon took over college football, so I wasn't used to seeing those types of athletes, like Dexter Jackson and Armanti Edwards. Those guys were phenomenal athletes and could have gone anywhere and been just as productive.

ASU's Dexter Jackson: [Teammate] Hans [Batichon] said, "Man, you just scored on Michigan." At that point in time, I knew everybody was going to settle down, get the jitters out and just play how we always played.

After Michigan regained the lead, Appalachian State scored three second-quarter touchdowns to take a 28-14 advantage. The Mountaineers led 28-17 at halftime.

ASU's Corey Lynch: We started blitzing them more and had a couple of sacks. Michigan really loved to run the ball, so we used some eight-man boxes and were just loading up and stopping the run. They didn't really change their game plan up and start passing a lot.

ASU's Julian Rauch: I remember at halftime, the big focus was just to try to keep everybody grounded. We knew they weren't going to just lay down. We knew we were going to get a big punch from them.

U-M's Greg Mathews: I don't think there was ever a point in the game where I was like, "Holy s---, we might lose." I knew we had playmakers, so it was only going to take somebody to get it in their head and be like, all right, time to take things over. I was just concerned that we weren't consistently getting stops on defense.

The scoring slowed in the third quarter, as Michigan's defense stiffened and prevented the Mountaineers from reaching the end zone in the second half. Two rushing touchdowns by Mike Hart, the second one a 54-yarder with 4:36 left, put the Wolverines back up 32-31.

U-M's Donovan Warren: I didn't start that game. But I remember [defensive coordinator Ron] English and [secondary coach Vance] Bedford telling me to get ready, that I was going in, so I ended up starting the second half. I think we held it down a lot better in the second half. Coach English made some adjustments and tightened it up.

ASU's Corey Lynch: It was about 90 degrees that day, and we subbed maybe one guy on defense the whole game. And a lot of our defenders were playing special teams, so we were getting tired. On Mike Hart's run, one of our defenders had him down, no problem. Then he just pulls through and keeps running, jukes and jives all the way to the end zone. It was pretty heartbreaking.

ASU's Julian Rauch: I had mixed emotions, first that this isn't really going to happen, but then that at least we played them really well. Then the third emotion was, "Hey we've still got time to go win."

Edwards threw a potentially crippling interception on the first play of the next drive. But the Mountaineers blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Jason Gingell and got the ball back with 1:37 left. Edwards completed a 24-yard pass to CoCo Hillary for a first down at the Michigan 5. Moore chose to kick the field goal right away, with 21 seconds left on the clock.

ASU's Jerry Moore: That was just to guard against a bad snap.

ASU's Julian Rauch: I've gotten a lot of grief from my teammates and friends because I didn't do much of a celebration. I saw it go through and just did a kind of a fist pump. It didn't really hit me that I'd just kicked the game winner against Michigan.

Still, the Wolverines weren't finished. Henne connected on a 46-yard pass to Manningham, setting up a 46-yard field goal attempt with six seconds to play.

ASU's Corey Lynch: We had a little miscue. Our underneath defenders weren't as deep as they should have been. Stuff that happens in the first game of the year.

ASU's Julian Rauch: I was like, "Oh my god, you've got to be kidding me." But we had blocked one earlier in the game, and my whole thought process was, he's not going to make it.

U-M's Greg Mathews: Something we had watched all week was the player who had blocked the kick. That was something coach [Lloyd] Carr pointed out in the full team meeting room, not just the special-teams meeting.

ASU's Corey Lynch: Coach Moore always had us work on blocking field goals in practice. We'd do it every day. We'd be skinned up because we had artificial turf in our stadium. But we loved it.

ASU's Jerry Moore: I'll bet you Corey blocked 20 kicks during two-a-days. I was worried about us kicking.

ASU's Armanti Edwards: We'd seen Corey Lynch do that almost every day at practice. He was so good at blocking punts and kicks in practice. He'd just run by the ball.

ASU's Corey Lynch: I had blocked a field goal against Furman the previous year, and it was the same exact thing. We said, "Let's just run the Furman block and see if it works again." The outside guy [on the block team] goes to get the attention of the outside man on offense. And if the second man will not look at me for a second, I can squeeze through that gap. I was so fast, I almost overran the field goal block. I kind of had to slow down because I was trying too hard, and it hit me right in the stomach.

U-M's Carlos Brown: I was like, "Un-freaking-believable. Did that really just happen?"

Tim Jamison, Michigan defensive end, 2004-08: I was stunned. The crowd, I think the whole stadium was quiet. In disbelief. Coach Carr always told us, "One day an inferior team is going to beat Michigan -- just pray that you're not here when it happens." He called it.

ASU's Corey Lynch: There were 100,000 people there, but it was silent. It was like the quietest celebration ever. I was so tired I don't think I got off the field for like 20 minutes. I don't think I could have played another play. I haven't been that tired, that exhausted, since that day. All my muscles were cramping up.

U-M's Donovan Warren: It shouldn't have been that close, but they just wanted it more from the get-go.

ASU's Dexter Jackson: I was thinking, "This is almost too good to be true. We really beat Michigan."

ASU's Armanti Edwards: I don't think we realized at the time that we'd go down arguably as the biggest upset in history. But we knew we had just accomplished something major.


The aftermath

What happened after the game was nearly as crazy as what happened on the field. Even Michigan fans didn't know what to do. The Mountaineers flew to Johnson City, Tennessee, and made the hour-plus bus ride back to Boone. Fans had torn down the goalposts at Kidd-Brewer Stadium and deposited them more than a mile away on chancellor Kenneth Peacock's lawn. Jackson appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week, and Appalachian State started receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25. Even a new network got a huge boost off the upset.

ASU's Julian Rauch: A lot of Michigan fans stuck around and wanted to talk and hang out after we did all our interviews. Hundreds of fans. They were very congratulatory. They were more shocked and disappointed in Michigan and excited for us, rather than hating on us. I think they realized how big of a deal it was.

ASU's Julian Rauch: The usual 15-second drive up Stadium Drive probably took 45 minutes, because about 10,000 students and fans were out there waiting to greet us. I can remember the bus shaking and I was like, "Man, this has to be what rock stars are like."

ASU's Jerry Moore: Pandemonium broke out after the game, so Lloyd and I never got to each other [for a handshake]. But this shows you the class of Lloyd Carr. About 3 o'clock on Sunday, we were at a staff meeting and he called. He congratulated us on the game. Just class. Pure class.

Mark Silverman, Big Ten Network president: It really helped create credibility for the network and establish the network as relevant across the national scene. [The Big Ten Network launched just two days earlier and this was the first game broadcast on the network.] We were on just under 20 million homes at the time. People were really saying, "I want to get the network" after that. We're now in 60 million homes.

ASU's Armanti Edwards: It helped us get noticed nationwide. Not many people knew where Boone, N.C., was before that.

ASU's Corey Lynch: We got paid $400,000, and we probably made $100 million for the school off that game.

Michigan would get blown out the following week at home vs. Oregon. But the Wolverines would regroup and win their first six Big Ten games before losing the final two to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Carr announced his retirement on Nov. 18. The Wolverines beat Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl, carrying Carr off the field in celebration. The school then hired Rich Rodriguez to bring his spread offense to Ann Arbor.

U-M's Greg Mathews: I'm very happy we sent Coach Carr out the way we did.

U-M's Tim Jamison: We beat Florida that year, but the game that sticks in everybody's mind is Appalachian State. That's one memory I try to get far, far away from my mind.

Appalachian State lost two games in the regular season -- to Georgia Southern and Wofford -- but went on to win its third consecutive FCS championship. The Mountaineers announced plans to join the FBS in March 2013. Moore was pushed out as head coach following the 2012 season.

ASU's Corey Lynch: The sad part to me is I don't know if I'll ever go back to Appalachian State. I'm embarrassed to go back there because they fired Coach Moore after all that happened.


The rematch

In 2011, Michigan and Appalachian State agreed to stage the 2014 season opener against one another in Ann Arbor.

Brady Hoke, Michigan head coach 2011-current: Our players are aware of the history. We haven't pounded the table about it or anything. But it's up there in our full team meeting room. We have our overall record against every team on the schedule. They're the only one we have a losing record against.

ASU's Julian Rauch: I'm happy for the next set of guys to get that opportunity, and of course the school gets a nice payday But it sure would have been nice to stay 1-0 against those guys. I think it was probably one of those things they should have left it alone as a one-time, all-time upset.

U-M's Brady Hoke: We were at an alumni event in Chicago this offseason, and one alum raises his hand and goes, "Who scheduled that game? All the week before the game, there will be nothing but highlights of the loss." I stood and said, "Get over it. Go play the game."

U-M's Carlos Brown: I think it's a good thing for us to play them again. Hopefully, the same thing doesn't happen again.

ASU's Armanti Edwards: Part of me is like, no, just keep it as the big upset we had. But the competitive side of me is like, yes, let's go shock the world again. And better yet, they know we're coming this time.

ASU's Corey Lynch: I still hear about that [2007] game an absurd amount. Pretty much daily. If I keep hearing about it every day, seven years later, it must have been a pretty big upset.

ASU's Jerry Moore: It was like the U.S. hockey team beating Russia in the [1980 Winter] Olympics. It's one that you just remember the rest of your life.

      

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