Appalachian State Moves a Mountain
Monday, September 3, 2007
BOONE, N.C., Sept. 2 -- Karl Smith walked downtown Saturday night to the apparel shop he owns. He knew it would be busy. When he arrived at the store, shoppers were streaming in and out. They bypassed registers and seemed to walk out with merchandise in hand.
"Aren't you going to pay for that?" Smith asked.
"Well," someone replied, "isn't this the line?"
Customers snaked through the door and down the street, black and yellow shirts in hand. Smith has owned Appalachian Tees for 20 years, but he had never seen this. Of course, no one in Boone had seen anything like what happened when Appalachian State, the division I-AA school that plays in the stadium a couple of left turns from Smith's shop, felled Michigan, the No. 5 team in the country, 34-32.
The upset launched Boone, a town of 13,000 in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, into a frenzy. Fans piled out of the bars where they had watched the game and into the streets. Smith opened a second register, something he never does.
During the week, Smith had sold a special T-shirt displaying two helmets, one with Michigan's famous maize and blue winged design, the other with a now-famous block-letter A. He moved about five a day. After the win, he printed new batches until midnight. After opening at noon Sunday, the shirts were sold out by 12:30 p.m.
"I still can't believe it," Smith said.
Corey Lynch was still trying to grasp it, too, when he woke up Sunday morning after five hours of sleep in order to be interviewed on "SportsCenter." Lynch had triggered the scene after he blocked a Michigan field goal in the final seconds. As Lynch rumbled down the field, ball tucked in his arm, he completed what has been hailed by some as the largest upset in college football history.
It was the first time a I-AA program had defeated a ranked I-A team. As Lynch's pastor told the congregation Sunday before his sermon, "Do you realize this has never happened before?"
He could skip David and Goliath, because everyone in the pews had watched it unfold on television the previous day. At Evangelical Christian High in Florida, Lynch played in front of 500 people most games. Appalachian's home field holds 16,650; Michigan's home stadium seats 109,000.
The Mountaineers' plane landed in the Johnson City, Tenn., airport at 11 p.m. and was greeted by nearly 100 fans 57 miles from Boone. Fans began lining the road and waving to the bus 20 miles from home. When team buses pulled into campus, a Boone fire truck's siren blaring behind them, 8,000 fans waited.
Chancellor Kenneth Peacock traveled with the team, and when he returned to his house at 1 a.m., he found a goal post in his front yard.
After the game, students had stormed Kidd Brewer Stadium and torn down the goal post. "When we beat Michigan," Peacock said, "they can celebrate however they want."
Workers from the school physical plant woke Peacock at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, when they arrived to pick up the goal post and truck it back to Kidd Brewer.
As Peacock helped, the Mountaineers assessed Saturday's aftermath. Wide receiver Dexter Jackson's face was splashed across the front of ESPN.com, and "that doesn't happen around here," Lynch said. When quarterback Amarti Edwards checked his e-mail, 100 Ohio State fans had requested to become his friend on Facebook.
Instant fame found the Mountaineers, but "this isn't just a three-hour thing," place kicker Julian Rauch said. Appalachian State has won the I-AA national championship the past two seasons and has a national-best 15-game winning streak, with a 27-game streak at home. But no victory has resonated like Saturday's.
"It's like I'm still dreaming or something," Edwards said, "because we beat Michigan."