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App State loss to GSU has Mountaineers reeling
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    In this strange college football season, the upsets aren’t limited to the major college level. They’ve also trickled down to the pride of the lower tier, Appalachian State.
    Remember the Mountaineers, the darlings of the sport after their startling win at then-No. 5 Michigan? You’ll find them in sixth place in their conference — and in danger of not even qualifying to defend their national championship.
    ‘‘I think we started it all,’’ coach Jerry Moore said Monday of the slew of upsets. ‘‘It’s just one of those kind of years.’’
    Seven weeks after they posted the season’s first head-scratching score by stunning the Wolverines at the Big House, the Mountaineers have lost their way. Slowed by injuries and a defense that can’t stop the run, Appalachian State is 5-2 overall and just 1-2 in the Southern Conference after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Georgia Southern.
    The defeat, which snapped a 30-game home winning streak, came a month after its Division I-best, 17-game winning streak ended with a 42-31 loss at Wofford.
    ‘‘Everybody is coming out and playing us like we’re Michigan,’’ Mountaineers linebacker Jacque Roman said.
    How things have changed from that Sept. 1 afternoon in Ann Arbor, when Corey Lynch blocked Michigan’s game-winning field goal attempt on the final play. The Wolverines, ridiculed after the 34-32 loss and their blowout loss a week later against Oregon, has won six straight since. They’re ranked 19th and still have a shot at the Big Ten title.
    Appalachian State, whose superior speed stunned Michigan and triggered a rule change to allow teams from the Football Championship Subdivision — formerly Division I-AA — to receive votes for The Associated Press Top 25, has lost its edge.
    ‘‘They’re hurt. Jeez, I wouldn’t want them any other way,’’ Moore said of his players. ‘‘If they’re laughing and giggling and all that stuff, we’d be in trouble.’’
    With consecutive upcoming road games against Furman and The Citadel — two teams above them in the Southern Conference standings — the two-time defending national champions could be in danger of missing the 16-team FCS playoffs.
    ‘‘I think we’ve got to win all four of them,’’ Moore said. ‘‘I really do.’’
    While going 3-1 might also give them a playoff berth, it likely won’t happen if the defense doesn’t improve. The Mountaineers have given up at least 31 points in three of their last four games. In the loss to Wofford, they allowed 291 yards rushing. Then they gave up 276 to Georgia Southern.
    ‘‘Our defensive line, we’re just young in there,’’ Moore said. ‘‘There’s no way to speed that process up. I think one of the things that’s going to be an eye-catcher for people is you played Michigan with those same guys. Well, Michigan was a different type of offense from what we’re seeing in our league. Mike Hart didn’t play a lot of the time against us up there. There were a lot of things.’’
    And the injuries keep piling up. Quarterback Armanti Edwards missed four games with a sore shoulder. Two starting offensive linemen — Mario Acitelli and Daniel Kilgore — broke legs on Saturday.
    Moore also admits the attention they received from the Michigan win took its toll.
    ‘‘It is distracting in a way,’’ Moore said. ‘‘You take Dexter (Jackson). He’s on Sports Illustrated. A guy came in and wanted him to sign his Sports Illustrated. It’s hard to tell those guys no.
    ‘‘It’s an ongoing process. It’s a good and bad thing.’’
    It will be bad if the season that included perhaps the biggest upset in college football history ends without a playoff berth.
    A crowd of more than 28,000 — the second largest in school history to the game right after the Michigan win — watched the loss to Georgia Southern. Many we’re wearing their ‘‘Michigan Who?’’ T-shirts that sold by the thousands in September.
    They may not be printing any ‘‘national champions’’ T-shirts — or even playoff shirts — if things don’t quickly improve.
    ‘‘I think there’s a sense of urgency,’’ Roman said after practice Monday ‘‘I think we’re going to have a whole new focus.’’