When my Saturday started, I was excited. Finally the 2007 season was here, and hopefully I would get to see my favorite team start its road to a national title in blowout fashion. Fast forward to later that day, say around 3:40 p.m., and I am in shock. No words can describe the feeling that went through me when that last-second field goal was blocked. Over the years I have gone through quite a few Michigan losses, but none compare to Saturday. In one game, Michigan went from being a football power and national title contender to the laughing stock of college football. It has already been said that Appalachian State pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history, and by far the best in college football. That is something you never want to be on the wrong side of because it never will go away.
Right when the band came out on the field, things just had an uneasy feeling. It seemed like a joke at first, but in the end, it was simple foreshadowing of what was about to happen. The moment I’m describing is when the new drum major dropped the baton after throwing it over the goalposts in the student section’s endzone. The legend is that whenever the baton is dropped, Michigan loses the proceeding game. Like I said, it just seemed like a joke. People were laughing at the possibility of Michigan actually losing. In reality, no one had an idea of what was about to happen.
It wasn’t all bad from the start of this game. Michigan got the ball and marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. The drive was dominating and had everyone’s hopes held high when Mike Hart walked into the endzone from 4 yards out. That great feeling lasted only for a few minutes, though, as the following drive was just a sign of things to come.
Appalachian State got the ball back and quickly faced a 3rd and 4 situation before starting their run to an upset. Armanti Edwards threw a slant pass to Dexter Jackson that really should’ve gained just enough for a first down. Instead, Jackson simply outran the Michigan secondary and ended up in the endzone for a 68 yard touchdown to tie things up a 7-7.
After going three and out in ugly fashion on the next drive, the look of concern first entered on the faces of Michigan fans in the Big House. The defense at least made a stop once Appalachian State got the ball back, but it would be one of the few times they were able to slow down the Mountaineers in the first half. To ride the momentum the “D” created, the Maize and Blue did get to the endzone on the following drive. Chad Henne connected with Greg Mathews on a crossing route for the 10 yard TD and gave Michigan a 14-7 lead. At this point, most probably thought that U-M would take control of the game and start the blowout. Right? Not so much.
Instead, ASU drove down the field in pound it out fashion. They used the same play over and over but still had success. Armanti Edwards took the snap in the shotgun and handed it off to the RB, who just took it up the middle, picking up 5+ yards on nearly every carry. That led to ASU scoring again to tie the game, this time via a 9 yard TD pass by Edwards. At the time, I was wondering if I should be worried yet. Maybe not too much, but the next chain of events greatly changed that.
Michigan gets the ball back and goes three and out. App. State gets the ball back and quickly gets down the field and back into the endzone. Armanti Edwards found Dexter Jackson again, this time from 20 yards out, to give ASU its first lead of the game. This is when things got ugly very fast. Mike Hart was out of the game with an injury and the running game struggled. It wasn’t as bad as Chad Henne’s sorry excuse of a passing game, but it wasn’t good either.
Of course, Michigan couldn’t get the drive going yet again and this time gave the ball back to ASU after getting stopped on fourth down. The Mountaineers took advantage and just jammed it down the U-M defense with 9 straight runs before Armanti Edwards dove into the endzone, giving ASU a shocking 28-14 lead. Michigan managed to get a field goal before the half, but the fans in Michigan Stadium were still stunned that the Maize and Blue trailed 28-17.
After a horrific first half, many just assumed Michigan would get its head on straight and get things together before all was said and done. The roller coaster ride that was this game continued as ASU finally made a mistake as the second half opened. Armanti Edwards was picked off on the opening drive by Morgan Trent, getting the crowd back into the game. The turnover only led to another field goal, but hey, it was better than nothing.
The defense got back to its usual ways when the Mountaineers took over on the proceeding drive. ASU went down the field pretty quickly and almost came away with another TD. This is when things really looked to be over. Armanti Edwards found a wide open Brian Quick in the endzone. Literally no one was near him. Somehow, though, he dropped the potential TD catch, and you could hear the gasps from the fans around the stadium. All it took was a catch and the game really would’ve been out of reach. Luckily, all ASU got out of it was a field goal, meaning the lead wasn’t too much to overcome.
Michigan avoided trouble yet again after ASU hit a field goal off of the right upright of the goalpost after Brandon Minor coughed the ball up. It was so close to being good but ended up missing off the upright, keeping Michigan alive for another drive. As usual in this game, the offense did absolutely nothing. Chad Henne threw three straight incompletions before Zoltan Mesko punted the ball away. The defense did do something big once Armanti Edwards took the ball back for his team as Shawn Crable forced a fumble and John Thompson recovered it. This put Michigan on the App. State 31 yard line with a chance to get back into this game.
Brandon Minor kept the drive going with a run for a first down in a 3rd and 2 situation, and then Mike Hart returned to the game. Hart came out on the field jumping up and down and lifting his arms up to get the crowd pumped. He then took over with 3 carries to get into the endzone for a U-M touchdown. With the score 31-26, the coaches elected to go for 2 rather than just kick the extra point. They were already playing catch up, but with the third quarter just about to end, there was more than enough time left and this decision was really questionable. Couple that with the fact that Chad Henne fumbled the snap and an extra point would’ve been a million times better.
With momentum on the Wolverines’ side, ASU started to get antsy on offense. The Mountaineers went three and out, and a face-masking penalty on the punt return put Michigan on the App. State 34 yard line. Mike Hart then busted out two big 7 yard runs before a false start that proved to be a drive killer. On the very next play, Chad Henne scrambled outside of the pocket and panicked just as he always does. Henne threw a horrible pass and it was picked off, ending a drive that really would’ve made things hard to come back from for ASU.
The defense held its own ground again and forced a three and out. Again, the running game was getting Michigan down the field effectively before another couple penalties killed the drive. U-M ended up not converting a 4th and 5, giving ASU the ball back with only 6:55 to go. Continuing to stand tough, the defense picked up two sacks to force a punt, giving Michigan what appeared to be one last chance to pull off the comeback.
On the very first play of the drive, Mike Hart had what was probably his greatest run as a Wolverine. He juked a few players and got into the open field before capping it off with a little deke move at the end to free up enough space to get into the endzone. The run covered 51 yards and put Michigan ahead 32-31. Obviously, a 2-point conversion was necessary now to put the lead at a field goal. Brandon Minor came in as Mike Hart obviously was tired after the long run and lost his footing after the handoff on the conversion try. That meant it was up to the defense to play like they were once again to close things out.
The thing that I just figured would be the nail in the coffin for ASU came on the very first play of their drive following the Hart TD run. Armanti Edwards threw a bad pass and it was intercepted by Brandent Engleman, meaning all Michigan had to do was run out the remaining 4:25 of the game and it would survive the near upset. That would be too easy though, it seemed Michigan just wanted to make things more interesting. With a crucial 3rd and 5 — on a play that could’ve put the game away — Michigan took a delay of game and then gained 5 yards. Problem is, that penalty meant it would be fourth down, meaning U-M was forced to try a field goal. From 43 yards out, Jason Gingell didn’t even come close as the kick was blocked, leaving it up to the defense one more time.
I don’t know if I went back in time to the Jim Herrmann era or something, but the defense just went into meltdown mode. Appalachian State easily marched down the field and ended up on the Michigan 5 yard line with 1st and goal and just under 30 seconds left. Rather than take any chances, ASU just kicked the field goal right then and there from 26 yards out to take a 34-32 lead. That decision was definitely questionable on ASU’s part considering it gave Michigan a chance.
With only seconds remaining in the game, it was time for a miracle. For the first time all day, Chad Henne was able to hook up with Mario Manningham on the deep ball. The pass and catch went for 46 yards and got Michigan down to the ASU 20 yard line with 6 seconds left. After taking a timeout, Jason Gingell just had to make the 37 yard field goal attempt and this all could be forgotten. Hopes were once again raised after all that had happened prior to that attempt and Michigan still could escape with the win.
As soon as the ball was snapped, it was over. Shawn Crable completely blew his blocking assignment and the left side of the line collapsed. ASU was in the backfield just as Gingell kicked the ball and it was blocked. Game over. Appalachian State pulled off the unthinkable. Even though they dominated almost the entire game, Michigan still could’ve won after all of the mistakes. Instead, they found a new way to lose and pissed away any chance of a national title this season.
Walking out of the stadium, it felt like I had just witnessed a nightmare. It was a nightmare, but it didn’t seem real. It felt like I would wake up and find out that all that had just happened was a bad dream. Unfortunately, the horrible coaching, the completely crappy play of Chad Henne, the sieve of a defense, and the blocked kicks were all too real. Appalachian State rightfully got to celebrate in the Big House after pulling off the amazing 34-32 upset.
The legacy of this game will be bigger than we can even imagine right now. It’s not like Michigan just got upset, but it was by a I-AA team at home. I don’t care how good they are, the label is still there. We now have to relive the worst day in Michigan football history over and over and over and over. Every time I turn the TV on the highlights or mentions of this game are there. I simply can’t escape it. The only way to try to put this loss out of my mind would be to go under a rock and disconnect all forms of communication. Otherwise, if I listen to the radio, go on the Internet, or watch TV, it’ll be “ASU Shocks Michigan.” I saw it happen in person and now it gets shoved into my face repeatedly.
I’m not saying that this story shouldn’t get the kind of coverage it is because this is going to be one of the biggest things that happens all season, if not the biggest. But Michigan is on the wrong side of history again. You know how every time there is a miraculous last-second play in sports and the Hail Mary by Colorado in 1994 is shown, well now add in every time the word upset is mentioned and we’ll get to see the blocked kick replayed. I guarantee you 25 years from now when an upset happens and SportsCenter decides to do a “Top 10″ of upsets in history, this will be on that list. It never will go away.
Michigan somehow has to find a way to pick up the pieces because Oregon comes to town on Saturday. The Ducks run a very similar offense compared to the one we saw yesterday, so the defense better figure out a way to stop it. Otherwise, it’ll be more of the same for a second straight time.