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Silence in the Big House
AUSTIN MURPHY
September 10, 2007
Using its speed and spread-option attack to run circles around the bewildered defense of No. 5 Michigan, Division I-AA Appalachian State kicked off an otherwise uneventful opening week with one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game
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September 10, 2007

Silence In The Big House

Using its speed and spread-option attack to run circles around the bewildered defense of No. 5 Michigan, Division I-AA Appalachian State kicked off an otherwise uneventful opening week with one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game

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To the surprise of no one, Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown on its opening drive. But what happened next quieted—and disquieted—the crowd. On its third play App State lined up in a five-wideout, no-back set. Dexter Jackson, the Southern Conference's reigning 200-meter sprint champion, took two steps, cut hard to the inside, snagged a bullet from Edwards and darted 68 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan defended the spread exactly as the underdogs hoped they would. "They brought two safeties down, one on the right slot receiver, one on the left," says Satterfield. When those receivers cleared out, "it left the middle wide open." Edwards's second touchdown pass, to Hans Batichon, exploited the same coverage.

Facing a second-and-eight from the Michigan 20 on his next possession, Edwards read an all-out blitz and fired his third touchdown pass of the day. By then it was obvious to everyone that the Wolverines had no answer for the spread. The halftime score: 28--17. Satterfield described the intermission as "kind of surreal. Because they hadn't really slowed us down. We put up 28 points in the first half, in the Big House. I was thinking, How are we going to finish this up?"

Not without high anxiety. The Wolverines adjusted on defense; by keeping an extra linebacker in the box, they slowed running back Kevin Richardson and clogged the passing lanes in the middle. And the offense awakened. That is, tailback Mike Hart limped back into the game. Having suffered a thigh bruise in the first quarter, the Heisman candidate spent much of the next two periods pedaling an exercise bike. With his team trailing 31--20 late in the third quarter he returned to score two touchdowns: a prosaic four-yarder and a 54-yard masterpiece, which put Michigan up 32-31 with 4:36 to play.

Edwards was promptly intercepted. It appeared that Wolverine Nation would have to postpone its outrage toward its preferred pi�ata, coach Lloyd Carr, for at least one more week. Michigan's national title hopes would survive past sunset of Sept. 1.

But Gingell missed a 43-yarder. The Mountaineers took over on their own 26 with no timeouts and 1:37 left. Edwards scrambled for 18, then connected on four straight passes, driving his team to the Wolverines' five with 30 seconds to play. On first down Moore sent out the field goal unit, even though it meant leaving the Wolverines time to run a couple of plays. "If we can't defend [the lead] with 20 seconds left," he recalls thinking, "we don't deserve to win."

Julian's Rauch's 24-yard chip shot was a bit ungainly, but it tumbled between the uprights nonetheless. Two plays later an alarm interrupted App State's pleasant dream. Chad Henne flung a 46-yard rainbow to wideout Mario Manningham, and Gingell trotted onto the field with six seconds left.

With 22 fewer scholarship players, the Mountaineers had nowhere near Michigan's depth, and Lynch was at his limit. "I was in for pretty much every [defensive] play," he says. That's no accident: Lynch has 24 takeaways—including 18 -interceptions—in 41 career games. His ball hawking carries over to special teams. Since the beginning of training camp, he, Touchstone and safety Cortez Gilbert have been locked in a competition to see who can block the most kicks in practice.

Lynch lined up on the right side of the App State line, outside the Michigan tight end, with Touchstone to his right. The tight end crashed down, the wingback mistakenly released outside to stop Touchstone and, recalls Lynch, "I was gone." He leaped and blocked the kick with his chest, then reeled in the ball without breaking stride.

"We should go to the Rose Bowl!" shouted App State linebacker Pierre Banks on the field after the game. Such talk brought a smile to Moore's face. "When we get home tonight," the coach predicted, accurately, "it'll be like a volcano erupting in Boone."

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