ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Drake Johnson will never forget it.
He was sitting in an Ann Arbor gas station in his father’s car, listening on the radio to No. 5. Michigan fighting for its life at home against a Division I-AA team. Then a player named Corey Lynch blocked Michigan’s field-goal attempt and sealed a 34-32 win for Appalachian State and one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
“I remember sitting there in silence,” Johnson recalled. “I was like, `Oh, no.'”
Oh yes, Appalachian State. And staring at the Wolverines atop their 2014 schedule are the Mountaineers, who are the first game this year at the Big House – just like they were back in 2007.
“It’s like the U.S. hockey team beating Russia in the Olympics,” former Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said.
It was the first win by a second-tier program against a Top 25 team and afterward The Associated Press changed the way it conducted its poll, allowing schools from all divisions to be eligible to receive votes.
The stunner put Appalachian State on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the front page of sports sections from coast to coast – and beyond.
“The game was news everywhere, even in China,” said associate athletic director Jay Sutton, who helped the Mountaineers fill the void on Michigan’s schedule that year. “The score was announced at Major League Baseball games. We’ve always had a great school, but the Michigan win helped us showcase how good of a school we have academically and athletically.”
The Mountaineers love to recall the upset that raised awareness about their program and school in Boone, North Carolina.
“After the ballgame, pandemonium just broke out,” Moore recalled, reminiscing about a scene that included him being hoisted onto the shoulders of his players and being carried off the field. “Lloyd (Carr) and I never got to each other, both of us probably tried.”
The next day, former Michigan associate athletic director Scott Draper called Sutton to get Moore’s cellphone number for Carr. Roughly 24 hours after the coach of the 1997 national champions suffered his worst defeat, he called Moore, who was surrounded by his staff during a meeting.
“He congratulated us on the game,” Moore said. “Just class. Pure class.”
Michigan’s 2007 team was loaded offensively with NFL-caliber players Chad Henne, Jake Long, Mario Manningham and Mike Hart. Its shaky defense, however, gave up nearly 6 yards per play to a speedy, spread offense that helped Appalachian State win the previous two I-AA national championships. The Wolverines did go on to win nine games that season, including a victory over then-No. 9 Florida in the Capital One Bowl.
The Mountaineers went on to win another I-AA title.
Former Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he was always cautious about playing a lower-division school, “but they were really good and we needed a game.”
“Our options at that point were almost none, so we scheduled the game,” he said.
And, former quarterback Armanti Edwards will always be thankful for that fact. How often is Edwards reminded of the upset by people?
“All the time. Anybody,” said Edwards, who is hoping to earn a roster spot with the Chicago Bears as a wide receiver. “When I tell them my name, they always bring up the Michigan game.”
Appalachian State, coming off a 4-8 season in Scott Satterfield’s first year as its coach, will make its debut in the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday. As for the Wolverines, they don’t want to look back at the history of this series; the rematch this weekend was scheduled three years ago.
“Our guys know about that game, and it’s the only school on the schedule this year that we have a losing record to,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who was leading Ball State seven years ago. “Obviously, I wasn’t here then and neither were the 115 guys on this football team, and it won’t be the same Appalachian State team either.”
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/larrylage