Appalachian State will play again Saturday at Michigan, in the same stadium in which it opened the 2007 season with a stunning 34-32 upset.
But it will be a different team on the field.
Most of the Mountaineers’ current players were in middle school or just starting high school when the memorable first game happened. A few watched on TV, and certainly all saw highlights afterward.
They all know about it. They all have been hearing about it. A few were influenced by it.
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When the Mountaineers went calling in Georgia to recruit running back Marcus Cox, he knew who they were.
“I knew who they were because they were the team that beat Michigan,” Cox said.
Cornerback Joel Ross remembers liking what he saw.
“They played that game like they were going to win, and I remember thinking I’d like to play for them,” he said. And he remembers the day the Mountaineers called his home in Maryland.
“My mom told me App State was on the phone,” Ross said. “I was like ‘The App State that upset Michigan?’ I was very excited. I knew I wanted to go there and play.”
Brandon McGowan, a linebacker from Georgia, said: “I remember seeing the highlights, and watching App get after them. I didn’t really know much about App State at the time, but it definitely put them on the map. I would have never thought in a million years I would wind up here, looking back at it now.”
Receiver Malachi Jones , a middle-school player in Georgia at the time, remembers his introduction to Appalachian State football.
“It was the Sunday morning after, and I had just played a football game that Saturday, and my dad got the film of the Michigan game – he was the defensive coordinator for my team – and we watched it,” Jones said.
“My dad went to Notre Dame, so we were all happy jumping up and down that they beat Michigan. That was my first glimpse of Appalachian.”
Now they all get to go play at Michigan Stadium, known as The Big House.
“I know it’s going to be a great atmosphere there,” Ross said. “They’ll want to take our heads off. But we’ll want to do the same. I think it will be a great game.”
Safety Doug Middleton, from Winston-Salem, was already very familiar with Appalachian State before the game against Michigan and before the Mountaineers’ three national championships.
He and tackle Kendall Lamm said they have tried to tune out all the talk of the 2007 game.
“It was something a totally different team did, a legacy they built,” Middleton said. “We’re trying to build our own legacy. I hear about it all the time, and I watched the game, but I’m trying to not even think about it at all.
“This is a different team, a different game. The game in 2007 is not going to help us any. It’s up to us to prepare and focus for this game.”
Lamm said: “We are a different team. The guys here now have never played Michigan. I appreciate what it’s done for the school, but it’s a new game for us.”