Put aside the different subdivisions and throw out preseason rankings.

It came down to execution.

Plain and simple, Appalachian State’s 34-32 upset win over No. 5 Michigan in Saturday’s home opener, a feat labeled as the greatest upset in college football history, was decided on the field.

“They just outplayed us,” Michigan tight end Mike Massey said. “They executed better than we did, and we had a lot of penalties that hurt us too.”

Appalachian State wide receiver Dexter Jackson brought reality home for the Michigan faithful with his post-game comments.

“By coming in here and beating Michigan, it’s a big statement to represent every team that’s in our division,” Jackson said. “This opened a lot of doors for a lot of teams.”

Saturday’s loss to Appalachian State more than likely locked the door to a national championship bid and opened floodgates that could drown what’s left of the Wolverines’ 2007 campaign.

Michigan’s home opener was supposed to be their first step to a National Championship run, but all it took was a two-time national champion from a lower subdivision of college football – the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly Division I-AA – to dash those hopes.

“When you lose to a team like that – they’re a I-AA team – how can you go for a National Championship?” said Mike Hart, who rushed for 188 yards and three scores despite a bruised thigh sidelining him for roughly two quarters. “I believe, personally, it’s out of the picture. I’m not going to give up on it. It’s in everybody else’s hands now.”

The loss marked the first time a team ranked in the Associated Press poll, which started in 1936, fell to a FCS squad.

What started out as just a scare turned into the statement of the season, but not for the team that had questions to answer.

Appalachian State entered the Big House more hopeful than expectant.

The Mountaineer sideline began to believe when Jackson broke free on a 68-yard touchdown catch on a simple slant pattern to knot the score at seven with 10:55 left in the first quarter.

“That was real big,” Jackson said. “That was big motivation for me that we could hang with these boys. So basically before that, I knew if I made a play, it would be a long day for them.”

Numerous Michigan miscues followed to give the Mountaineers the edge.

Protection broke down when Appalachian State (1-0) blocked two Jason Gingell field goals, one a 44-yard attempt with 1:47 left and a potential game winning 37-yard try with six seconds remaining.

The Wolverines (0-1) committed seven penalties to the tune of 56 yards, including an illegal procedure and a delay of game that stymied two drives in Mountaineer territory.

And Chad Henne, the four-year starting quarterback, threw an ill-advised toss across his body that Appalachian State’s Leonard Love intercepted.

The natural order of college football hierarchy appeared to return in the second half. Michigan stormed back to a 32-31 lead with 4:36 remaining in the fourth quarter after an inspired 54-yard touchdown scamper by Hart.

But Mountaineer coach Jerry Moore wouldn’t let his team quit.

“The bottom fell out on us,” Moore said. “What are you going to do? You going to throw in the towel? You going to cry that we played hard and we gave them our best? We could have walked away real easy, 32-31, and everyone would’ve said, ‘Well, you played hard.’ “

The soft-spoken coach added he said a short prayer following the shocking win – an act many of the Michigan faithful will imitate in the coming weeks, if they haven’t already.

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