Not surprisingly, Appalachian State was the talk of Tuesday morning’s weekly Southern Conference teleconference, which features the league’s eight head coaches. The two-time defending FCS national champions grabbed headlines across the country for pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game with their 34-32 win at then-No.5 Michigan on Saturday.
League coaches heaped on the praise, including Georgia Southern’s Chris Hatcher, who spent seven years at Division II’s Valdosta State before joining the Eagles in January.
“Coming from Division II, you always have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder because you don’t get the recognition you feel like sometimes you deserve,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of difference on certain Saturdays between the divisions. It was a great win for our conference and of course for Coach (Jerry) Moore and Appalachian State, probably the biggest upset in the history of college football, even though I’m sure the Appy players didn’t think it was an upset. I’m sure they thought they were going to win, and that’s what happened. So congratulations to those guys.”
Moore said the last few days have “been awesome” and feels other FCS schools are capable of pulling off similar feats.
“We happened to stumble into the limelight in our own way,” he said. “We beat traditionally a really good football team. I wouldn’t want to play Michigan today, I’ll tell you that. We had our day, and we got out of there as quick as we could.”
Moore uncustomarily let his team enjoy the high and absorb the hoopla of the national media that descended upon Boone, N.C.
“I wasn’t going to rob our kids and our school of the opportunity to be a part of that,” he said. “It showcases our conference, I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think it showcases (FCS) football.”
The Mountaineers managed the coup despite playing just 29 players — 15 on offense and 14 on defense — not including special teams.
“We were healthy, we were in great condition, had a great challenge, our kids accepted it and they thought they could go win,” Moore said.
Chattanooga coach Rodney Allison said he was thrilled for Moore and his program, while Elon’s Pete Lembo said the triumph made him proud to be a part of the Southern Conference.
Said Citadel coach Kevin Higgins: “Congratulations to Jerry, his staff and the program. What a tremendous accomplishment that was. It certainly bodes well for the entire league. What a great, great win.”
Wofford’s Mike Ayers complimented Moore for having his players mentally ready to play at the Big House — the largest football stadium in the world where game attendance often exceeds 111,000.
“When you play those games a lot of times it’s not really the separation as far as the height, weight and speed,” Ayers said. “It’s the separation as far as the belief that you can get it done. Those guys believed they could get it done, and they went to the Big House and did it.
“They’ve shown that they’re the team to beat, not only in our league but across the country. You could tell just from the highlights that their kids were jacked up and ready to play, and they did a great job of executing.”
Appalachian sophomore quarterback Armanti Edwards earned SoCon offensive player of the week honors after accounting for 289 yards of total offense and all four scores. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 17 times for 62 yards.
ASU senior defensive back Corey Lynch, who blocked Michigan’s game-winning field goal attempt in the final seconds, was named the league’s defensive player of the week. He finished with 11 tackles and has blocked four field goal tries in the last eight games. The Mountaineers will look to extend their 15-game winning streak — the longest in Division I — and win their 28th straight home game when they host Lenoir-Rhyne Saturday.
“Everybody in the Southern Conference knows about Appalachian, and certainly Michigan knows about them know,” Furman coach Bobby Lamb said.
Elon freshman QB starts strong
The reins of Elon’s offense have been handed to true freshman Scott Riddle, and the rookie quarterback looked promising in his first collegiate start Saturday at South Florida — the program’s first matchup against a FBS team. His 33 completions set a new school record and earned him SoCon freshman of the week honors. Riddle finished with a 33-for-54 clip for 210 yards and one touchdown in Elon’s 28-13 loss.
“The biggest compliment I can give Scott was he was very composed,” said Lembo, whose squad hosts West Virginia Wesleyan Saturday. “The atmosphere and the magnitude of the opponent didn’t seem to fluster him at all. He’s a very humble kid, but he’s mature for a true freshman. Hopefully we can continue to bring him along here in the coming weeks.”
Wofford kicker earns honors
Wofford placekicker Patrick Mugan was named the league’s special teams player of the week after going 5-for-5 on PATs and nailing a 28-yard field goal in the Terriers’ 38-21 season-opening victory over Georgetown (Ky.) in Spartanburg, S.C., last week.
As a team, Wofford rushed for more than 400 yards led by Kevious Johnson with 94. The Terriers host Charleston Southern Saturday at 7 p.m.