ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Chances are, most of the 110,000 fans at the Big House had no idea exactly where Appalachian State is located.
By the time they saw a blocked field goal in the final seconds, this much was certain: The little Mountaineers pulled off one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32.
The team from Boone, N.C., took the lead with 26 seconds left when Julian Rauch kicked a 24-yard field goal. Corey Lynch blocked a 37-yard try on the final play, and the Mountaineers sealed a jaw-dropping upset that might have no equal.
“It was David versus Goliath,” Appalachian State receiver Dexter Jackson said.
Michigan’s three stars on offense and its coach came back this season, putting the NFL and retirement on hold, with high hopes.
Big Ten title. National championship.
Looks like it might be time for Plan B.
Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Jake Long never envisioned stumbling this early in what was a promising year.
Neither did coach Lloyd Carr, who looked ashen as the upset unfolded.
It didn’t take long to notice the second-tier power belonged on the same field because it made up for a slight size disadvantage with superior speed and, perhaps, more passion.
The two-time defending champions from former Division I-AA were ahead of the nation’s winningest program 28-14 late in the second quarter, before their storybook afternoon seemed to unravel late in the fourth quarter.
Hart’s 54-yard run with 4:36 left put the Wolverines ahead for the first time since early in the second quarter.
One snap after the go-ahead touchdown, Michigan’s Brandent Englemon intercepted an errant pass, but the Wolverines couldn’t capitalize and had their first of two field goals blocked.
“I’ve been dreaming about that kick every day,” Rauch said.
Still, it wasn’t over.
Lynch blocked the kick and almost returned 52 yards to the 18 as the final seconds ticked off. His teammates rushed across the field to pile on as the coaching staff and cheerleaders jumped with joy.
“We’re still sort of shocked,” coach Jerry Moore said after being carried off the field by his players.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Appalachian State has won 15 straight games, the longest streak in the nation. The Mountaineers are favored to win the Football Championship Subdivision, but they weren’t expected to put up much of a fight against a team picked to win the Big Ten and contend for the national title.
That’s the beauty of college football.
No Division I-AA team had beaten a team ranked in The Associated Press poll from 1989-2006, and it’s unlikely that it had ever happened before. The Division I subdivisions were created in 1978.
“It is one of the biggest losses ever, but give all the credit to Appalachian State,” Hart said.
The Mountaineers are not eligible to receive votes in the AP Top 25 poll because they’re not in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
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