(Running back Kevin Richardson celebrates. Photo by Duane Burleson, AP)
In one of the largest upsets ever seen in college football, Appalachian State, a Division I-AA school, when into the Big House and knocked off the Michigan Wolverines, 34-32. Appalachian State had won the Division I-AA championship two years in a row and were carrying a 14-game winning streak. Still, the fact that a team that anonymous could go in and beat the 5th ranked team in the country was undeniably incredible.
Just the way the Mountaineers pulled off the upset was sensational. In the final 100 seconds of regulation, Appalachian State kicked a game-winning field goal and blocked two, count 'em, two Michigan field goals. The final block occurred in the closing seconds of the game, as Corey Lynch prevented a 37-yard field goal from taking place, and then ran joyously down the opposite end of the field. Never have 110,000 fans been more silent.
Almost instantaneously, talk began if this was the biggest upset in NCAA football history. While some were initially defiant to call a game on the first Saturday of the season the greatest upset ever, the facts certainly pointed to it that way. No Division I-AA school had ever beaten a ranked Division I-A school. Plus it happened to Michigan, the winningest college football school of all time.
Then there was the timing of the game too. Normally for the first game of the year, ranked teams got to play nobodies because, after all, no one wants to lose the first game of the year. As a result, lopsided games were the norm. In fact, just look at the other college football games that week, listed in order of the team's rank.
(1) USC 38--Idaho 10
(2) LSU 45--Mississippi State 0
(3) West Virginia 62--West Michigan 24
(4) Texas 21--Arkansas State 13
(5) Michigan 32--Appalachian State 34
(6) Florida 49--Western Kentucky
(7) Wisconsin 42--Washington State 21
(8) Oklahoma 79--North Texas 0
(9) Virgina Tech 17 - East Carolina 7
(10) Louisville 73--Murray State 10
(11) Ohio State 38--Youngstown 6
(12) California 45--(15) Tennessee 31
(13) Georgia 35--Oklahoma State 14
(14) UCLA 45--Stanford 17
(15) See Number 12
(16) Rutgers 38--Buffalo 3
(17) Penn State 59--Florida International 0
(18) Auburn 23--Kansas State 13
(19) Florida State 18--Clemson 24
(20) Nebraska 52--Nevada 10
(21) Arkansas 46--Troy 26
(22) TCU 27--Baylor 0
(23) Hawaii 63 --North Colorado 6
(24) Boise State 56--Weber State 7
(25) Texas A&M 38--Montana State 7
The margins of victory are incredible. 59-0, 63-6, 73-10, 79-0! The only ranked teams besides Michigan to lose were Florida State (who lost to Clemson all the time) and Tennessee (who was playing a higher ranked California squad). And gaze at who the elite were playing: Troy, Weber State, Montana State, North Colorado, Youngstown -- these are teams intended to be fed to the lions. Appalachian State was the most unsung of them all, yet they were the only ones to come out alive.
(Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore. Photo by Duane Burleson, AP)
The football poll makers were hardly respective to Appalachian State's back-to-back Division I-AA championships. The next week, Michigan dropped completely out of the top 25, the largest drop in the history of the ranking system. With their season essentially over after one game, calls came furiously for the firing of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. Carr had been with the team for over 12 years and had even led them to a share of the national championship in 1997, but the loss to essentially a minor league football team was too much for him to live down. Two months later, Carr announced his resignation.
As quickly as the fervent Michigan faithful called for Carr's exit, the calls came almost just as quickly to bring him back. In 2008, Carr's replacement, Rich Rodriguez, led the Wolverines to a disastrous 3-9 campaign, the worst season in the team's 129-year history. Suddenly losing to Appalachian State didn't seem so bad.
In a final bit of trivia, Appalachian State has a connection to one of the most notorious videos on YouTube. In 2007, Miss Teen South Carolina became an instant sensation for her flubbed answer on the question: "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?" Days after her gobbledygook answer, the South Carolina girl told the Today Show that she planned on enrolling at Appalachian St., which -- in case you don't know -- is located in North Carolina.