By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
BLACKSBURG, Va. — After 35 years of covering college football, I am a veteran of FCS vs FBS matchups. But my perception of these games was forever changes four years ago when I watched from the press box at Michigan Stadium as Appalachian State stunned the No. 5-ranked team in the Associated Press Top-25 with a 34-32 victory.
From now on, I'll always hold out hope that almost any FCS can beat any FBS squad on any given Saturday.
On this Saturday, I'll have two chances to watch an upset. My day is starting with Appalachian State's encounter at No. 13 Virginia Tech in Lane Stadium and will end at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tn. as Montana takes on Tennessee.
Just last season, Virginia Tech was shocked by James Madison, 21-16, in the second week of the season.
Here is hoping we have plenty similar upsets today and in weeks ahead.
To get you in the mood for a day packed with FCS vs FBS matchups, here was what I wrote from Ann Arbor, four years ago:
Lynch's blocked FG lifts App State to historic upset of Michigan
Sept. 2, 2007
ANN ARBOR, Mi. - Appalachian State was one play from history with six seconds remaining Saturday afternoon against Michigan.
After leading most of the afternoon at hallowed Michigan Stadium before a crowd of 109,218 fans and a television audience watching the first game in Big-Ten Network history, the Mountaineers clung to a precarious 34-32 lead in the season-opening game as Michigan kicker Jason Gingell lined up for a 37- yard field goal on the game's final play.
"We work on that situation every day in practice," said Appalachian State senior Corey Lynch.
And just like he does every day in practice, Lynch shot inside through a gap in protection and blocked the kick. The All-American safety and Buchanan Award candidate then scooped the ball up and ran 62 yards before being tackled to end the game and give the Mountaineers one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
"I wanted to score in the Big House, but I ran out of gas," Lynch said of being tackled near the 10-yard line.
But Lynch did enough to lift the Mountaineers to a stunning 34-32 victory - the first time in history that a team from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) had beaten a nationally-ranked Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) squad.
Appalachian State is ranked No. 1 in FCS and is the two-time FCS defending champion. Michigan is ranked fifth in the FBS.
"We really emphasized (blocking field goals) during two-a-days," said ASU coach Jerry Moore. "We work hard at it, that's no fluke. I would say that (Lynch) almost averages one a day in practice."
It was the second block of the fourth quarter for the Mountaineers. Freshman Brian Quick, who had dropped a wide-open pass in the end zone to cost the Mountaineers a touchdown in the third quarter. got a hand on Gingell's 44-yard field goal attempt with 1:47 remaining and the Wolverines trying to add to a 32-31 lead.
Getting the ball at the Michigan 26 with 1:37 left, sophomore quarterback Armanti Edwards, who had struggled with two interceptions and a lost fumble in the second half, scrambled for 18 yards and completed four consecutive passes to T.J. Courman, Hans Batichon, Dexter Jackson and CoCo Hillary to move the ball into field goal range with 30 seconds remaining.
The final completion for 24 yards to the Michigan five put the game onto the right foot of ASU kicker Julian Rauch. The Mountaineers, with no timeouts remaining, decided to kick on first down and Rauch boomed his 24-yard attempt through the middle of the uprights with 26 seconds remaining.
"It was a great feeling to do that for my teammates," said Rauch, who kicked a 31-yard field goal and three extra points earlier in the day, but had a 46-yard effort hit the right upright later in the third period. "I'm glad I was able to deliver the final punch."
The Mountaineers had to survive the final seconds and Michigan quarterback Chad Henne (19-of-37 for 233 yards and one TD) gave the Wolverines a last shot at victory when he completed a 46-yard Hail Mary pass to Mario Manningham, who reached from behind to grab an under-thrown ball at his left, outside shoulder at the ASU 20.
But Lynch, who has four blocked kicks in the last two seasons and has been involved with 28 turnovers during his stellar career, came up with another monstrous play.
"Corey gives me heck every day in practice," said Rauch.
"Julian gets mad at us a lot, because we block a lot of his kicks (in practice)," Lynch said.
On Saturday, it was Rauch's opposite number, Gingell, who felt that pain.
"He's probably jealous of my situation," said Rauch, who has missed a pair of last-play kicks in his ASU career. "He's hurting right now over in that other locker room and probably feels like he let his teammates down and is to blame."
Appalachian State put itself in position to win by playing a near flawless first half.
Michigan showed its talent in marching down the field with the game's opening kickoff and scoring on a six-play, 66-yard drive, just two and a half minutes into the game. Mike Hart (23 carries, 188 yards) scored the first of his three touchdowns with a four-yard blast into the end zone.
Three plays later, ASU struck for one of the most important plays of the day. On second and 10 from the Mountaineer 26, Edwards hit Jackson on an in pattern and Jackson turned on the afterburners for a 68-yard TD strike to even the score.
"We had to come back and hit them in the mouth," said Jackson, who had 129 yards and two TDs on just five plays. "I knew when I made that play, it was going to be a long day for them."
Michigan went ahead again with 3:16 left in the first period, capping a 10- play, 52-yard drive with Hennes 10-yard TD pass to Greg Matthews (game-high seven catches for 68 yards). But again, it wasn't for long.
Appalachian State responded with a classic Mountaineer drive, using Kevin Richardson (24 carries, 88 yards) repeatedly, going 65 yards in 11 plays before Edwards hit Batichon for a nine-yard TD pass early in the second quarter. A 19-yard reverse to Jackson set up the score.
After stopping Michigan without a first down on its next drive, ASU struck again. An 18-yard punt return by Jackson and a 15-yard late hit call on the Wolverines gave the Mountaineers a short field and Edwards' 20-yard bullet to Jackson gave Appalachian its first lead at 21-14 with 9:47 left in the half.
Michigan received the benefit of a questionable call when Johnny Sears fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and ASUs Chase Laws recovered. The play was reviewed and reversed, with the official in the booth saying Sears had been down when he fumbled. But the evidence was far from inconclusive.
The Wolverines drove as far as the ASU 35 before plays by cornerback Justin Woazeah and Lynch on Henne's long passes snuffed out the possession.
Appalachian State then took control of the game with another impressive drive, going 65 yards in nine plays. On third and goal from the Michigan six, Edwards scrambled up the middle and vaulted into the end zone to make it 28-14 with 2:15 to go as the Wolverine crowd sat in stunned disbelief.
Michigan managed to get into range for a 22-yard Gingell field goal with 16 second left on the clock, but the Wolverines were booed heavily as they exited the field at halftime, trailing 28-17.
An Edwards interception, on the second play from scrimmage by Trent Morgan gave Michigan immediate momentum at the ASU 39, but the Wolverines could only manage to get a 42-yard field goal from Gingell that barely skimmed over the crossbar to make it a 28-20 contest.
Still with no answers for the ASU no-huddle spread, Michigan watched the Mountaineers drive 64 yards in 11 plays to score again. Quick dropped his pass in the end zone on third and eight from the 12, but Rauch's 31-yard field goal made it 31-20 with 8:17 left in the third period.
ASU middle linebacker Jacque Roman stripped Michigan's reserve tailback Brandon Miner (13 carries, 50 yards) of the ball and outside linebacker Pierre Banks recovered to give the Mountaineers the ball back at the Wolverine 28, but the Michigan defense stepped up to hold Appalachian without a first down and Rauch's 46-yard field goal hit the right upright at the 5:07 mark of the third stanza.
As the third quarter began to evaporate, Edwards gave Michigan another opening when his fumble at the Mountaineer 31 was recovered by John Thompson. Five plays was all the Wolverines needed to make it 31-26 on Hart's four-yard blast with 24 seconds left in the quarter. Henne fumbled on a two-point conversion attempt to leave Michigan behind by five.
Both offenses sputtered until Michigan got the ball back at its own 46 with five minutes remaining. Hart, who had missed some of the game with a bruised thigh, came back and scampered 54 yards on the next play to send a shot of energy through the massive crowd and give the Wolverines a 32-31 advantage.
But the two-point conversion again failed and Michigan couldn't take advantage when safety Brandent Englemon intercepted an Edwards pass at the Mountaineer 43.
When Gingell's 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked that kept alive ASUs hopes of winning and the Mountaineers stuck a dagger through Michigan's heart in the last 1:47.
"Give Appalachian State credit. I thought they did a great job." Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I felt that we were not a well prepared football team. That is my job and I take full responsibility for that. We played much better defense in the second half, but penalties killed us in this game."
While Carr and his team were trying to figure out what went wrong, Moore and the Mountaineers were endeavoring to put the upset into perspective.
"That may be one of the great victories in college football — maybe the greatest," said Moore. "This victory today - you've got to remember these kids have won two national championships — and this is not bigger than those because the championships are in our league, our division. We were the best that year. But they will never ever forget today's experience as long as they live."