…that on any given Saturday (in this case), anything can happen.
Now, I have to admit there is a giant soft spot in my heart for Applachian State. And no, it’s not because Dan Wilcox of the Ravens went there! lol
My mother was born and raised in Lenoir, NC, on the western edge of the state, about 90 minutes or so across the mountain from Boone, home of Appalachian State.
Growing up, we would always make a trip over the mountain when we visiting my mom’s family and I became very enamored with the Boone/Blowing Rock area of North Carolina. My mom started working on me at a young age about going to college at “App State” so there was a time in my life that I thought I might wind up there after high school. Long story short – I wanted to play soccer in college, I talked to Appalachian State’s coach and he was all set at my position (goalkeeper) and it didn’t work out. Which, in review, was probably good for the coach — I later found out college, schoolwork, studying, going to class, etc. – none of that stuff sat real well with me.
Later, in the early 1990’s or so, I wound up going back down to Appalachian St. on a recruiting trip when I was the GM of the Baltimore Spirit soccer team and it was still the same cozy, ultra-friendly and gentle town that I remembered in my youth. I have remarked to many people over the years two things about colleges; #1, the best campus I’ve ever seen is UNC at Chapel Hill and #2, the best college town I’ve ever seen is Boone, North Carolina.
So, yesterday, Michigan brought App State to Ann Arbor for a little $400,000 guaranteed ass-kicking. Who can blame the App State’s of the world for taking one or two of those games each year? The money they generate from the big schools goes a long way in improving their athletic program and since the games are out-of-conference, the inevitable shellacking doesn’t disturb the real season (aka, conference play). Basketball teams do this every year. Hell, Fang Mitchell and his Coppin State Eagles spend the first month of every basketball season going 0-7 but making a couple of million for the school’s athletic department. It’s a good gesture, actually, because that money isn’t sucked up entirely by the basketball team. Somewhere, a javelin thrower at Coppin benefits from Mitchell’s annual pre-Christmas sojourn across the country.
But something happened along the way yesterday that gives every Gordy Combs in the country a chance to say, “hey guys, think about Appalachian State”.
Appalachian State 34 – Michigan 32
Don’t ask how. It was too crazy to describe. In all fairness, App State was VERY lucky to win after surrendering a 45-yard pass in the waning moments that gave the Wolverines a shot at a game-winning field goal. That’s exactly how teams like App State lose to teams like Michigan. They throw a scare into them, but in the end, the Michigan QB throws a hail mary, some sophomore corner back misses his assignment, the stud wide receiver drops in behind him, catches it and goes down at the 11 yard line to set up the game-winning boot. It’s good – the fans celebrate, the Michigan coaches breathe a sigh of relief, everyone says all the right things about how much heart App State has and how “we knew they weren’t going to just lay down for us”, blah, blah, blah.
But yesterday, in “the big house”, the big play didn’t go Michigan’s way. The potential game-winning field goal was blocked and there they all sat – all 110,000 of ‘em. Stunned beyond belief. “Where the hell IS Appalachian State, anyway?” – they all asked.
They’re calling it the biggest upset in college football history. To put it into perspective here, locally, it really would be like Towson or Morgan State going to, say, Ohio State…winning.
College football is an environment unlike any other when it comes to creating a festive event that makes the game even more special. For the big schools, these tune-up games – like Appalachian State – give the fans a chance to enjoy a “breather” of sorts while the home team beats up on the pesky little group from small-town USA. The big team ALWAYS wins this game. ALWAYS.
The small-town USA team ALWAYS gets their check.
And they also get an open invitation to come back anytime and get punched in the mouth in exchange for $250k or more.
But in Boone, NC, they haven’t even cashed that check from Michigan yet.
They’ll probably hold on to it for a couple of weeks, just to tease the accounting department at Ann Arbor.
And why wouldn’t they?
Saturday’s like that one don’t happen often at App State.
Come to think of it, Saturday’s like that one don’t happen often, anywhere.
Somewhere in heaven where they were watching the game, my Mom and Dad watched that game yesterday and got a big kick out of it.