Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Upset City | by Jay

(One of our longtime readers, Dan, is a rabid Irish fan who also happens to be an Appalachian State grad. He and his friends road tripped all the way to Ann Arbor from North Carolina for the game against Michigan last Saturday. He sent us this report. Enjoy.)

Hi Jay,

I won't bother discussing details of the game as that is available everywhere on the net. But just a bit of a back drop, AppState has played Div I BCS teams pretty regularly for 20 years - mostly Wake Forest and when we started beating them regularly, they dropped us. In the past few years we took Auburn and NC State into the fourth quarter, and didn't embarrass ourselves against LSU (20-0). In addition we have been regulars in the Div I FCS playoffs the past 5 years and are the 2005 and 2006 national champions. I can't stress enough how the pressure, elevated play, and facing different style offenses and defenses in the playoffs gives a team experience and confidence. The excited talk on the long road trip up to Ann Arbor was Michigan's inexperienced defense. We knew our offense matched up favorably. Could we avoid mistakes on offense and possibly stop their offense?

Excited to get a full day's experience as reward for sitting in a car for 24 hours, we went to campus early on Saturday. Threw the football around for a while, sipped our cherry 'shine and headed out to the offically sanctioned Mountaineer tailgate location somewhere across the U of M golf course. What a great college gameday atmosphere - just as you envision a hundred thousand fans would tailgate! Our gauntlet was about a mile of Michigan fans - four of us decked our in our ASU gear. Not sure what to expect from the Wolverine fans, but they turned out to be nice and very gracious. However, being asked repeatedly "Where exactly is AppaLAYchian State?" wore thin. One confident Michigan fan told us we were about to get an education in real college football, and wasn't impressed by our national championships.

Into the stadium a bit early to soak up the atmosphere, and once the game started, the excitement peaked early as it was apparent by end of first quarter we could play with Michigan - but the peak lasted for the whole game. Numerous times I had to tell myself to breathe, and calm down. Halftime was a whirl of phone calls and text messages - some from folks I hadn't talked to in 15 years! It was just overwhelming. Our fans were so loud and excited the whole game, the energy was spilling over. Only twice, in the fourth quarter, did I feel the energy and noise of the 106,000 Michigan fans. While impressive and loud, it didn't seem to match the intensity of our home games. The rest of the day belonged to us - so loud were we that in the third quarter, a good-sized percentage of the Michigan band came to our tiny section of the stadium to harrass us. After being ignored and drowned out by our cheering, they quietly went back to their band. What a game!

Too drained to walk back to the car after the game, we just sat and watch the players on the field. The ASU players started running to the "M" on the 50 yard line. I froze and thought to myself "Oh please don't do anything crass like Michigan State would do." The players assembled as a team on the "M" and took some pictures - what a sign of respect and a very touching moment. Then the team said a prayer and headed to the locker room.

Walking out of the stadium, again we didn't know what to expect, but the Michigan fans were gracious and many congratulated us. Two young boys about 8-9 came up to the four of us and one of them said "You ruined our season!" I was speechless and started searching for words to console when I heard my son say "I'm a Notre Dame fan, when I was your age there were many times Michigan ruined our season. That's just part of college football."

We were the last to leave our parking area, we were just too excited to leave. Food, beverages, phone calls (though no one could understand me because I was so hoarse) was great to sit there until dark. Stragglers, both ASU and Michigan fans, stopped by and chatted - everyone realizing what just happened was really special for college football.

It really sunk in on the drive home: flying our "A" flags, speeding through West Virginia a state trooper flew up along side us and when he had our attention, he gave us a big thumbs up, flipped his lights on and off, then took off down the highway.

What a win. Go Apps. Go ND.

-- Dan

(By the way, if you haven't heard the radio call of the final blocked kick, go immediately here.)