September 4, 2007


Silence in the Big House (Austin Murphy, September 4, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

Lying on his back, gazing up at a bluebird sky framed by the oval of Michigan Stadium, Corey Lynch wondered if any of this was really happening. It was Lynch who moments earlier had come slicing off the edge to block Michigan's potential game-winning, 37-yard field goal attempt. It was Lynch, a four-year starter at free safety for Appalachian State, who scooped the ball in one fluid motion and set sail for the far end zone. "I wanted to take it to the house in the Big House," he said a few hours later. Instead, he was run down by Wolverines kicker Jason Gingell.

Maybe you're thinking that's the difference between Division I-A (which the NCAA has renamed the Bowl Subdivision) and Division I-AA (now the Championship Subdivision): A Division I-A safety doesn't get caught by a kicker. Wrong. Lynch was chased down because he'd played more snaps than anyone on the field last Saturday, and he'd been cramping since the third quarter. As he strained for the goal line, "I had knots in my calves," Lynch recalled, "and my legs started shivering."

Lynch's failure to score made no difference to the bottom line. By blocking that kick on the game's last play, the physics major from Cape Coral, Fla., sealed one of the most kinetic upsets in modern college football history: Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32. Since the AP expanded its rankings to 25 teams in 1989, no I-AA team had ever beaten a ranked I-A squad -- let alone a Top 5 team and the winningest program in the history of the game.

Quite possibly the biggest I-AA win since Mr. Murphy's alma mater, Colgate University beat Division I Temple, in the early 80s--though, in fairness to Appalachian, that one was at Colgate.

Saw Mr. Murphy at the NIT Preseason tournament in (maybe) 1987, where Temple was about to beat powerhouse UNLV in basketball. He'd written most of his column already, about how disciplinarian John Cheney and his boys had knocked off dirty Tark's squad. Then Gerald "Daddio" Paddio drained a three to put the bad guys in front and he went running by screaming "Rewrite!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 4, 2007 12:00 AM

Beating Temple was a huge upset? Temple???

In reality, the I-AA upset-to-beat was The Citadel going into Razorback Stadium and beating Arkansas in 1992. Naturally, this latest stunner totally eclipses that one.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 4, 2007 5:10 PM

What's with the slam on JoePa? It's not his fault the Big Ten is full of chokers. Many of us still frown at the choice to align with the conference.

And if Michigan hadn't scored a TD on the last play of the game in 2005, Paterno would have had season 6 of undefeated/untied. And he wins his bowl games.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 4, 2007 11:45 PM

Paterno is a vicious weasel and watching him run that program into the ground is one of life's great pleasures, as was watching Nebraska beat him googleplex to nothing the Kickoff Classic. He forced the creation of I-AA--good to see it bite his conference.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2007 7:36 AM

My parents are both Applachian State grads.

The small school apparently stands to make millions of dollars from licensing in Ohio, where the OSU fans are eager to snap up ASU gear to wear to the Michigan games this year. :)

Apparently one of the reasons they played Michigan is that the local I-A teams have been watching and wanted no part of them...

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 5, 2007 9:41 AM


And -- it is absolutely mandatory that I say this -- Mike McCloskey was out-of-bounds in the previous year's game.

Here's something to ponder: The I-AA teams have gained a number of victories over the years. Scanning both Google and my memory bank yields such examples as Maine over Mississippi State in 2004, The Citadel over Arkansas in 1992, then I-AA Troy over Cincinnati in 1999, and Appalachian over Wake numerous times. I've been to some of the I-AA games against Nebraska and the teams often play with heart but get worn down due to their limited rosters.

Imagine what some of them could do if the separation had never been made and those teams had the full 85 scholarships. Appalachian might've beaten Michigan by two touchdowns.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 5, 2007 10:13 PM