This wasn't meant to be more than a warmup for the Wolverines. Michigan were four points short of playing in the national championship game the previous season, and entered 2007 ranked number five in the all-important preseason polls. More importantly, they returned many of their key players, including quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart, and left tackle Jake Long (and that was just offense). This bunch was expected to contend for the Big Ten title, and maybe even the BCS title too. The FCS upstart didn't have a chance.
Speaking of said FCS upstart, this wasn't a whipping boy like Savannah State, eager for a paycheck to keep the football program afloat. The Mountaineers were coming off back-to-back FCS national titles, and also returned key players of their own, such as quarterback Armanti Edwards, running back Kevin Richardson and safety Corey Lynch, among others. Appalachian State were also expected to contend for a national title, although one that entailed a playoff first.
The game started as everyone expected it would, with Michigan waltzing down the pitch behind the running of Hart, who had 46 of the Wolverines 67 yards, and the opening TD. What happened on the ensuing drive was more of a shock, and became par for the course in this game. On third and four, Edwards threw a 68-yard scoring pass to Dexter Jackson, shocking the Big House into silence. Sacks by each team shorted out the next drives, before Henne led a 52-yard drive, mostly through the air, and throwing 10 yards to Greg Matthews for the score.
Michigan 14, Appalachian State 7
Richardson found some running room against the Wolverine defense, and coupled with some timely passing from Edwards, saw the Mountaineers reach the endzone early in the second, with Edwards hitting Hank Batichon from 9 yards out. A couple of incompletions forced Michigan to punt on their next drive, and a 16-yard return by Jackson, plus a personal foul penalty on Michigan, put Appalachian State in very positive territory. A short drive was finished on a 20-yard reception by Jackson, and the ensuing Wolverine drive was snuffed out by consecutive completions by Henne. The Mountaineers smelled blood, and the combined running of Edwards and Richardson moved the ball into scoring range again, with Edwards heading into the endzone from 6 yards out. A last ditch drive by Henne led Big Blue into scoring range, but they only came away with a field goal by Julian Rauch.
Appalachian State 28, Michigan 17
An interception of Edwards on the second play of the second half led to a field goal for the Wolverines, but the Mountaineers scored three points of their own on the next drive to protect their lead. Most of the third quarter was a mixture of fumbles and punts, but Hart scored on a four-yard run late in the quarter to get Michigan within a single score, but a two-point conversion failed.
Appalachian State 31, Michigan 26
The fourth quarter began like much of the third, with more turnovers and punts, as both defense were in the ascendancy. Then, with 4:51 left in the game, Mike Hart did what Mike Hard does best, and ripped off a 54-yard scoring run to stun the Mountaineers and give Michigan just their second lead of the game. The two-point conversion failed, but the worm looked to have turned when Edwards threw an interception on the first play of the following drive. The plucky Mountaineers could hold their heads high for playing a close game, while the Wolverines established their dominance over the last few minutes.
Not so fast, my friend...
The Wolverines marched down the pitch, but a delay of game penalty killed the drive and they settled for a 43-yard goal. At least that was the plan. The Mountaineers blocked the kick, and Edwards led a whirlwind drive that led to a 24-yard field goal that regained the lead and stunned the Michigan crowd. With just 21 seconds left, Henne finally started to play as he should, firing a 46-yard pass to Mario Manningham that put the ball on the Mountaineer 20. Rauch lined up for a 37-yard attempt, but lightning struck twice for Appalachian State, and the last-second kick was again blocked, as the Mountaineers picked the Wolverines' pocket in their own back yard.
Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32
Probably the greatest outcome of the game was the sheer amount of 'David Versus Goliath'-esque cliches trotted out by the media, but both teams went in different directions over the rest of the season. The Mountaineers had a couple of hiccups against Wofford and Georgia Southern, but turned on the style at the right moment, waltzing through the playoffs and winning the title in style with a 49-21 blowout of Delaware. The Wolverines suffered some key injuries and the team fell short of expectations, finishing jut 9-4, although a win over Florida in the Capital One Bowl put a nice end to an otherwise tough season.
Now the two meet again seven years later, in a game that doesn't really matter to anyone outside of the two teams. The Wolverines struggled last season, although they made a bowl game, while Appalachian State won just four games and are joining the Sun Belt this year. The odds of the Mountaineers pulling off another shock win ("lightning striking twice" twice?) are slim, but we all said that the last time too.