Appalachian State will be back at Michigan Saturday to begin its 2014 football season in the shadow of a 2007 opener that seems destined to loom forever.
Will this time around be a Michigan reckoning? Or could it be another Mountaineers miracle?
The Mountaineers pulled off what has been regarded as college football’s biggest upset seven years ago when they knocked off the No. 5 Wolverines in the Big House.
Michigan wanted another shot and will get it at noon today in a game televised on ESPN2.
Appalachian State will get $1 million for granting the rematch.
Although what happened in 2007 is not forgotten, Saturday’s game will be between teams with entirely different personnel and mostly different staffs.
Scott Satterfield, the Mountaineers’ coach, said it’s an imposing challenge for his team aside from any Michigan motivation for redemption.
“Obviously, Michigan is one of the most-storied programs in the country,” Satterfield said. “They’re always going to be picked toward the top. They have so many great players there; they recruit nationally and sign four- and five-star players.
“We’re obviously picked as a big-time underdog again. I think we would be anytime we play them.… I think just the fact we beat them in ’07 proves the underdog can win, but I don’t think ’07 has anything to do with it being a tougher game. I think it’s always going to be a tough game.”
Expectedly, there has been more talk, at least outside both teams’ camps, about the 2007 game than about the 2014 matchup.
“Our guys know about that game, and it’s the only school on the schedule this year that we have a losing record to,” Hoke said. “Obviously, I wasn’t here then and neither were the 115 guys on this football team, and it won’t be the same Appalachian State team, either.”
It indeed won’t be the same Appalachian State team that beat Michigan in 2007. And the Mountaineers faithful hope it’s not the same team that lost to Charleston Southern and N.C. A&T in the early stages of last season.
The Mountaineers are a year older – with 16 starters returning on offense and defense – although they’re still a young team overall with only five seniors expected to be in the starting lineup.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 4-8 season, the program’s first losing season since 1993, and are beginning their first season in the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Michigan also has 16 starters returning, from a 7-6 team, including fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner, who passed for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Appalachian State quarterback Kam Bryant said his team is as prepared and ready as it can be.
“We want to represent the university well,” Bryant said. “We want to show that last year is not the team we plan to be in the future. We want to play well for our coaches and our fans .… We still have a young team, and we need a good start.
“We can’t buy into the hype of what happened in 2007 and try to live up to what happened then; we can’t do it exactly the same, even though we want to come up with the same result. This game is different. We understand our opponent. We’ll go up there to play the best we can and bring the fight to them and let the chips fall however they may.”