September 1, 2007

Appalachian St. stuns No. 5 Michigan

Box Score

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Chances are, most of the 110,000 fans at the Big House had no idea exactly where Appalachian State is located. By the time they saw a blocked field goal in final seconds, this much was certain: The little Mountaineers pulled off one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32.

The team from Boone, N.C., took the lead with 26 seconds left when Julian Rauch kicked a 24-yard field goal. Corey Lynch blocked a 37-yard try on the final play, and the Mountaineers sealed a jaw-dropping upset that might have no equal.

"It was David versus Goliath," Appalachian State receiver Dexter Jackson said.

Michigan's three stars on offense and its coach came back this season, putting the NFL and retirement on hold, with high hopes.

Big Ten title. National championship.

Looks like it might be time for Plan B.

Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Jake Long never envisioned stumbling this early in what was a promising year.

Neither did coach Lloyd Carr, who looked ashen as the upset unfolded.

It didn't take long to notice the second-tier power belonged on the same field because it made up for a slight size disadvantage with superior speed and, perhaps, more passion.

The two-time defending champions from former Division I-AA were ahead of the nation's winningest program 28-14 late in the second quarter, before their storybook afternoon seemed to unravel late in the fourth quarter.

Hart's 54-yard run with 4:36 left put the Wolverines ahead for the first time since early in the second quarter.

One snap after the go-ahead touchdown, Michigan's Brandent Englemon intercepted an errant pass, but the Wolverines couldn't capitalize and had their first of two field goals blocked.

Then Appalachian State drove 69 yards without a timeout in 1:11 to set up the go-ahead field goal.

"I've been dreaming about that kick every day," Rauch said.

Still, it wasn't over.

Henne threw a 46-yard pass to Mario Manningham, giving Michigan the ball at Appalachian State's 20 with 6 seconds left and putting the Wolverines in position to win it with a field goal.

Lynch blocked the kick and almost returned 52 yards to the 18 as the final seconds ticked off. His teammates rushed across the field to pile on as the coaching staff and cheerleaders jumped with joy.

"We're still sort of shocked," coach Jerry Moore said after being carried off the field by his players.

Appalachian State has won 15 straight games, the longest streak in the nation. The Mountaineers are favored to win the Football Championship Subdivision, but they weren't expected to put up much of a fight against a team picked to win the Big Ten and contend for the national title.

That's the beauty of college football.

No Division I-AA team had beaten a team ranked in The Associated Press poll from 1989-2006, and it's unlikely that it had ever happened before. The Division I subdivisions were created in 1978.

"It is one of the biggest losses ever, but give all the credit to Appalachian State," Hart said.

The Mountaineers are not eligible to receive votes in the AP Top 25 poll because they're not in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Appalachian State's win does seem to trump the game second-tier programs used to regard as their crowning achievement - The Citadel's season-opening win in 1992 over Arkansas that led to the firing of Razorbacks coach Jack Crowe following the game.

Carr will not get fired after this upset, but he might be wishing he had retired after last season when the Wolverines won 11 games before closing with losses to Ohio State and USC.

When it was over, he didn't second-guess decisions to go for 2-point conversions twice in the final 15-plus minutes, but did lament many mistakes, penalties and missed opportunities.

"We were not a well-prepared football team," Carr said. "That is my job, and I take full responsibility."

The Mountaineers improved to 7-36-1 against top-tier teams since 1978, the previous six victories all over Wake Forest, and took home a $400,000 check from Michigan to boot.

Armanti Edwards threw for 227 yards, three scores and two interceptions, and kept Michigan guessing with his mobility. He also ran for 62 yards. Jackson caught three passes for 92 yards, and scored twice, including his 68-yard reception that tied the game early and provided a glimpse of what was to come.

Hart, who went almost two quarters without a carry because of a thigh injury, ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Henne was 19-of-37 for 233 yards in a lackluster game that included a TD and an interception in Mountaineer territory.

Ordinarily those numbers should've been good enough for a win over a small school. Not on this day and not against Appalachian State.

"Someone said it might be one of the big victories in college football," Moore said. "It may be the biggest."

For more coverage of Michigan, visit TheWolverine.com; for more on Appalachian State, visit MountaineerIllustrated.com.




 

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