Snow Day 2010 For Appalachian State And Western Illinois
The snow at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the Appalachian State-Western Illinois playoff game Saturday brings back memories of other famous snow games for the two programs
By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
BOONE, N.C. — One of my favorite ever games in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs came on a brutally cold day in Hamilton, N.Y. during the 2003 postseason.
Western Illinois, fresh off a 43-40 overtime win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium against Montana drew Colgate in the second round and if the Leathernecks thought it was cold in Missoula, Mt., they couldn't have dreamed up what they would face that day.
The Leathernecks were in a two-year run under coach Don Patterson where a talented collection of players were unlucky not to reach back-to-back Division I championship games.
In 2002, Western Illinois was beaten by a long Pete Martinez field goal in the final seconds as Western Kentucky won 31-28 on the way to a national championship. Western Illinois had beaten the Hilltoppers in the regular season.
This was a game more remembered for a post-game free-for-all between the teams and one of the players swinging a sledgehammer at opponents during perhaps the most infamous brawl in postseason history.
So a year later, Western Illinois found its fate tied to an upper-New York-state blizzard.
I was watching from the comforts of my home as the Leathernecks and Raiders battled it out in classic fashion. When I had to take my youngest daughter to a ballet rehearsal later in the day, I settled into a local sports restaurant — Geno's — to watch the rest of the game.
We had to make a special request to get the game turned on one of the televisions, but as other patrons saw what was going on at Colgate, they quickly asked for the contest to switched onto their TVs as well.
Western Illinois led 27-21 in the fourth quarter behind the gutsy play of left-handed quarterback Russ Michna and the Lee Russell-led defense. But a late punt return set up Payton Award winner Jamaal Branch for a game-tying touchdown and the extra point gave the Raiders a 28-27 lead.
Michna tried in vain to rally the Leathernecks to one last score, but Western Illinois came up short and were left heartbroken for the second year in a row.
Forward ahead seven years and eerily on the same weekend of that WIU-Colgate thriller and the weatherman has some more fun in store for Western Illinois as it prepares, in its first playoff season since the Colgate game, to meet top-seeded Appalachian State.
I woke up about 7 a.m. to find snow already falling at my house, 30 minutes from Boone. By the time I arrived at Kidd Brewer Stadium three hours later, snow was coming down steadily and accumulating at a brisk pace.
Fans of the Appalachian State Mountaineers remember a playoff snow game of their own.
In 1987, coach Erk Russell brought his Georgia Southern Eagles — fresh off back-to-back national championships — to meet the top-seeded Mountaineers.
ASU tried to use some new technology to remove the snow and ice from the field, but instead, the equipment turned the field into an ice rink.
Russell came out for the game in shirt sleaves before being talked by the medical staff into putting on some warmer clothes.
"Erk, you could die out there today," one of them reportedly told the iconic coach.
As Appalachian State rolled to a 19-0 victory to end the Eagles' championship reign, fans noticed a rather peculiar sight on the Georgia Southern sideline.
Steam was literally rising from Russell's bald head.
ASU historians might also remember a regular-season game from 1995 when the Mountaineers battled Western Carolina for the Old Mountain Jug.
The day started with 50-degree temperatures and torrential rains that soaked the players to the bone from the beginning of pre-game warm-ups. But then the temperature began to plummet in the first quarter and we witnessed nearly every form of percipitation known to man.
By halftime, the temperature was 30 degrees and it was snowing.
The Mountaineers scored on the first play of the game on a nifty, play-action pass from Scott Satterfield and went on to a 28-3 victory for the 10th win of a perfect regular season.
Afterwards, I saw some of the most miserable-looking players that I had ever witnessed in a post-game locker room. I still remember one of the game's heroes, running back Aldwin Lance, shivering uncontrolably as he tried to dissect his performance.
Appalachian State also witnessed snow flurries at Kidd Brewer Stadium in the 2008 quarterfinals as Richmond ended the Mountaineers' three-year championship run, 33-13, on the way to a national championship of its own.
But the snow that day was nothing like this.
ASU also remembers the disappointment of a blizzard game just last December when a fourth-down pass from Armanti Edwards to Brian Quick fell incomplete as Montana won a berth in the 2009 championship game with a 24-17 win in a blizzard at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Hopefully, we will end up with another game to rival the thrills of that Western Illinois-Colgate game, or that ASU-Montana contest.