ATHENS – Most of the current Georgia football players were 11 years old or younger when Appalachian State executed what many still refer to as the greatest upset in college football history. Senior tailback Nick Chubb figures, “I was probably riding my bike somewhere” when the Mountaineers defeated Michigan 34-32 on Sept. 1, 2007.
But that doesn’t mean the current Bulldogs don’t know all about it. They do. Georgia’s coaches have made sure of that.
They’ve been watching it on a continuous loop in their weight room. The coaches have had it cued up on the monitors there leading up to Saturday’s season opener against Appalachian State at Sanford Stadium (6:15 p.m., SEC Network).
“We get it right there on the big screen,” UGA senior tackle Isaiah Wynn said. “Every day.”
This weekend is the 10th anniversary of that historic upset. Suffice it to say, the Bulldogs don’t want history repeating itself in their backyard.
“We’ve been talking about it since the end of last season,” Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason said of App State’s famous upset. “They’re a great team. They’re a well-coached team, a well-respected team. They’ve got one of the best records in college football (the last three years). We approach them just like any other team we play. They’re a great team, they’re fast and we’re looking forward to playing them.”
Said senior tailback Nick Chubb: “We just know what we’re up against and we’re practicing toward that. We know they’re a great team, so we have to play great also.”
No surprises this time
So App State is not going to slip up on the Bulldogs like they might have done on Michigan when they met them in “The Big House” a decade ago. But, the reality is, the Mountaineers haven’t been sneaking up on anybody ever since that momentous victory.
But the way that program has progressed since that fateful Saturday, they don’t have to rely on the element of surprise as much these days. The fact of the matter is, they’re a bona fide good football team.
Just ask Tennessee. The Vols had were extremely fortunate come away with a win against App State in last year’s season opener at Neyland Stadium. In fact, they needed a missed extra point and field goal from the Mountaineers to get the game into overtime, where they finally won 20-13.
“It was a night just about everything went wrong, but we found a way to win,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “But App State was a solid team that played hard.”
The fact is, the upset over Michigan comes up every time App State plays a Power 5 opponent. And that’s pretty often. Georgia represents the eighth P5 opponent the Mountaineers have faced since the Michigan trip.
They’re 0-8 in those games. And most of them haven’t followed the script of the Tennessee game last year. Most of them have gone the way last year’s game did against Miami in Boone, in which the Hurricanes won 45-10.
The only other time they played Georgia in Athens, the Bulldogs won 45-6 in 2013. So there’s that, too.
But even before the Michigan upset grabbed the nation’s attention, App State has had a reputation for giving the big dogs fits. Back then, they were playing on the Football Championship Subdivision level, previously known as I-AA. and they had wins over South Carolina and Wake Forest to their credit, and had put some scares LSU and Auburn, among others.
But it’s that Michigan game 10 years ago that always comes up.
“Every time we play a school like Georgia,” said Jerry Moore, who retired as the Mountaineers’ coach in 2012. “I still say it was great for college football. I didn’t know that much about AA (now FCS) football until I came over here in 1989. … We used to have what they used to call those ‘money games.’ I used to refer to them as ‘opportunity games.’ We played Auburn, LSU, Clemson, N.C. State, Michigan. Those were great opportunities for a school like us.”
Michigan game always there
As it was, App State was in the midst of an incredible run as a I-AA power when it opened the 2007 season in Ann Arbor. The Mountaineers were coming off back-to-back national championships, including a 14-1 season the previous year.
They were led by a dynamic young quarterback, sophomore Armanti Edwards, and other players such as wide receiver Dexter Jackson and defensive back Corey Lynch, who would go on to play in the NFL.
Scott Satterfield, App State’s current head coach, was offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Mountaineers that day.
“You know, Michigan’s coming off just playing the Rose Bowl, a very good team,” Satterfield said. “I think they were fifth in the country coming into that game. … We really didn’t even show our team any film on them, because they had some dudes that were unbelievable. So we didn’t show them most of that film. We just kind of said, ‘here’s what we’re going to do, guys.’ We said, ‘we’re going to be good at what we do then let’s go see what happens.’”
That proved a great strategy for the Mountaineers’ offense. They scored four touchdowns in the first half, making good on every red zone opportunity to take a 28-17 lead into halftime.
App State led by as much as 11 points until the final seconds of the third quarter. That’s when Michigan made its run and scored a pair of touchdowns. The second one, a 54-yard run by Mike Hart, gave the Wolverines a 32-31 lead with 4:36 to play.But coach Lloyd Carr has opted for two-point conversion attempts after each of those scores and both failed.
That left App State with a chance. The Mountaineers made good on it as they drove 69 yards down the field in just over a minute to set up a Julian Rauch 24-yard field goal from 24 yards out with 26 seconds left.
Famously, Michigan got a chance to save itself. A 46-yard pass from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham gave the Wolverines a 37-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left on the clock. But Lynch busted through the line to block it and nearly returned it the length of the field for a touchdown before being run out of bounds with time expired. It was the second field goal App blocked in the fourth quarter.
Greatest upset ever?
The win marked the first time an FCS team had beaten a ranked FBS program. What makes it even more incredible is App State showed up with only 57 players on scholarship. Only 27 of the 77 players that traveled to Ann Arbor played int he game.
Thus, it was immediately proclaimed as the greatest upset in college football history.
“It was special; it was lightning in a bottle, that day,” Satterfield said. “Everything that had to happen right happened for us. What was so inspiring about it is that we were such a heavy underdog. Michigan was loaded. They lost to us, lost to Oregon the next week. But, hey, they won nine games and beat Florida in a bowl game, so they still had a solid team. It was just one of those special days.”
The Wolverines finished the season 9-4. Carr retired at the end of it.
Meanwhile, App State actually lost to Wofford three weeks later and would also fall to Georgia Southern that season. But the Mountaineers got back on track and once again rolled through the playoffs. They beat Delaware 49-21 to win their third consecutive I-AA championship.
But it’s still that night in Ann Arbor that everybody remembers from 2007.
“It was close to midnight by the time we got to Boone and people were lining the roads before we even got to campus,” Moore said. “We couldn’t even get the buses all the way to where we were supposed to park. The students had torn down the goal posts on our field. It was pandemonium.”
Don’t ‘settle for field goals’
It’s a feat that will remain a part of App State’s lore for generations. Pulling off something like that again is something the Mountaineers aim to do every season. But, as the Michigan game illustrated, a lot of things have to go right for that to happen.
It’s possible, Satterfield said.
“First, you don’t want to settle for field goals,” he said. “The last time we went down to Georgia at halftime it was 14-6, so we made two field goals and we missed two field goals. So, I mean, you’ve got to get touchdowns. To come back to the Michigan game, in the first half we scored four touchdowns. You are able to put some points on the board because you know those kind of a team, they can score bunches. So, you’ll have to find ways for touchdowns. As for our defense, we’ve got to be able to stop the run, and then not give up the big play.”
That formula works in inverse for the Bulldogs to not become the next upset victims.
“I remember the game; I remember the blocked kick,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “… It gave them great exposure. There were a lot of great players in that game for App State, just like this team here has. They have some really talented guys who are fast.
“For those guys, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for them. You have to understand that their want and desire cannot be more than your want and desire. That is really what this game comes down to.”