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Thursday, November 27, 2014

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Michigan's 'D' surprises Mountaineers, repeat of 2007 avoided

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Alejandro Zúñiga, Managing Sports Editor
Published August 30, 2014

In 2007, Appalachian State shocked Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-32, in what is recognized as one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

That team wasn’t led by current quarterback Kameron Bryant or running back Marcus Cox. It was a different Appalachian State, one manned by Armanti Edwards and Dexter Jackson — two names many still didn't recognize at the time.

The 2014 Mountaineers, making their FBS debut, were no match for the Wolverines on Saturday, providing little resistance as Michigan rolled to a 35-point halftime lead and an eventual 52-14 win.

And because of Appalachian State’s history in the Big House, this one meant a little bit more.

“I can just imagine how the guys in ‘07 (felt),” said defensive lineman Ronald Blair. “We tried not to look so far back into ‘07. This isn’t the team from ‘07.

“We just tried to put our own stamp on it, and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”

The small contingent of visiting fans did their part, donning shirts and pins that read, “Been there, beat that.”

But these Mountaineers couldn’t stop Devin Gardner (13-of-14 passing, 173 yards), or Devin Funchess (three TDs), or Michigan’s running backs (336 yards).

“Those things happen when you play good teams,” Bryant said. “When you play a team like Michigan, you don’t get those mistakes. You’ve got to play almost a perfect game.”

Appalachian State’s struggles were systematic as much as they were a product of facing a superior opponent. Michigan’s defense employed tight, man-to-man marking, and Bryant had been prepped by his coaches to face a zone system.

Last year, Bryant and the Mountaineers thrived on quick throws out of the shotgun and picking up yards after the catch. The Wolverines’ corners, though, disrupted the rhythm and bought enough time for the defensive line to burst into the backfield.

The result was an Appalachian State offense that managed just 74 yards in the first half. Bryant finished the game 8-of-19 for just 58 yards.

“This game was not what (Michigan) had shown all last year,” said Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield. “Why they did that, I don’t know. … It was all game. Even the last drive, they were playing man.”

As Satterfield explained earlier in the week, many members of his current team committed to Appalachian State in part because of the 2007 upset, which stunned the college football world and landed the small school from Boone, North Carolina on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

It marked the first time a Division I-AA (now FCS) team beat a ranked opponent from Division I-A (now FBS), derailing Michigan’s national championship hopes before they could really begin.

But in Saturday’s rematch, the Wolverines asserted their dominance from the opening kickoff, and the 2014 Mountaineers couldn’t replicate their predecessors’ magic of 2007.

“Heck yeah, that was in (Michigan’s) minds the whole offseason,” Satterfield said. “What else do they hear? 2007, App State came and beat you guys. That’s all they’ve heard. You’re dadgum right they were determined.”