Wednesday, August 27, 2008

App State a year later

It was about three weeks ago that I was sitting in a subway heading uptown to visit some friends back in my New York City days (as if that was longer than a week ago). I was listening to my ipod, minding my on business, when in walked this family (clearly tourists) and the father was sporting a huge gut with an even bigger Appalachian State t shirt.

Of course, seeing that name, that school got my attention away from the tunes and back to that fateful day last September when my heart was ripped out of my football soul. I immediately started shaking my head, thinking of something creative to say to this man without coming off as a creepy New Yorker (having lived there for two summers, I can tell you there are plenty). See, a year ago, I wouldn't have even noticed this man or his t shirt. But this isn't last year for Michigan fans. All I could come up with was a "you're killing me with that shirt, I went to Michigan."

The big guy just laughed it off, and started talking about how they could make it two in a row since LSU was foolish enough to put the Mountaineers on its schedule this season.

The world of college football was turned on its head when Appalachian State, led by quarterback Armanti Edwards, walked into the Big House and defeated Big Blue and its aura of mystique last season. I think everyone watching in the stadium or on television that day knew something historic was going on when that last-gasp field goal was blocked and the App State players stormed the field.

Now it's a year later, and I think it's important to take a look at just how dramatically things have changed for both teams since that upset occurred. Most significantly, the loss put into perspective just how behind-the-times the Michigan football program was as App State's spread offense sliced and diced Lloyd Carr's antiquated team. Now the Wolverines are all shiny new and advanced looking under Rich Rodriguez, and I think the opening loss from a year ago is a major reason why he isn't in Morgantown anymore. But everyone knows about all the changes that have gone on in Ann Arbor, so what about down in App State country.

Well, in today's Washington Post, there's an interesting little articleabout just how much has changed for coach Jerry Moore, his Mountaineers, and all of college football for that matter.

Coach Jerry Moore stopped on the edge of the Appalachian State practice field one day this preseason, turned and gazed at what his football program has become. To his right, a new turf practice field rested next to an under-construction, 120,000-square-foot complex the height of a seven-story building. To his left, Moore saw a new upper deck for Kidd Brewer Stadium, packed with 4,400 new seats. In total, the view equated to a nearly $50 million flex of might.

Moore had watched "Monday Night Football" days earlier, and the mention of one of his former players prompted a conversation among the announcers, heard nationwide, about the 16,000-student school in Boone, N.C. The quarterback he followed off the practice field, a whippet-thin charge of energy named Armanti Edwards, has been mentioned as a dark horse Heisman Trophy contender.

"This all wouldn't have happened," Moore said, "without Michigan."

I'd say that quote at the end kind of sums things up nicely. These schools have reached unprecedented heights starting with the App State debacle and concluding with another Michigan slap in the face when I-AA Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco was the second quarterback selected in the 2008 NFL Draft, ahead of Chad Henne.

But it hasn't been all peaches and cream for App State and the schools like it. Apparently, lining up additional big time opponents for the future has been a little tougher now that they went into the Big House and showed their stuff. Apparently, the Mountaineers already had their future schedules lined up with games against LSU, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Georgia before they defeated Michigan. However, Appalachian State is missing a 1-A opponent for 2009, when star quarterback Armanti Edwards will be a senior, and there aren't any takers who want to face a veteran-laden, knows how to win the big game App State.

Athletic Director Charlie Cobb said at least 25 teams have turned him down. Some schools have sent e-mails proclaiming they need a game. Cobb responded immediately, only to receive a reply saying they had found an opponent. Other athletic directors have called Cobb, telling him a division I-A school just called looking for a game. When Cobb calls the I-A athletic director, he's told the schedule is full.

"It's comical, some of the responses I've got," Cobb said. "The thing I've never understood truly, athletics is about competition. It's about who's good and who's not. At some point, step up and play people. Scheduling is not as complicated as people make it out to be."

I really recommend reading the whole article. It's definitely an interesting perspective on what has gone down in 1-AA football since App State's miraculous (yes, I'm still calling it a fluke) win. And next time I see an App State fan, I'm hoping to have something much wittier to say to them. Michigan needs to beat that school to the punch in something.

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