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Welcome to The Rock
winning at App no easy task for visitors
stadium-howards elon
Fans pile into Kidd Brewer Stadium earlier this season for Appalachian State’s home game against Elon. Nicknamed ‘The Rock’, the Mountaineers have won 30 straight at their home stadium, the longest in Division I football. - photo by MIKE ROMINGER/Special
    Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore insists it’s nothing supernatural, but without a doubt something pretty extraordinary is happening on top of the mountain in Boone, N.C.
    More than 3,000 feet about sea level, Kidd Brewer Stadium — aka The Rock — is home to the two-time defending national champions and nothing short of a nightmare for visiting teams. The No. 5 Mountaineers haven’t dropped a game there since 2002 and are the proud owners of Division I’s longest home winning streak at 30 games.
    “Our place is obviously very special to us, but there’s nothing magical about it,” said Moore, whose squad hosts Georgia Southern for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday. “There’s not anything mystical about it at all. Just like anybody else, we enjoy playing at our place.”
    While the Eagles have pestering gnats and sweltering heat, the ASU’s guests are hit with chilly, thin mountain air and get taunted by the biggest crowds in the Football Championship Subdivision.
    “They’ve got great fans out there, and there’s a little altitude difference, so us fat boys will be breathing a little bit heavier,” GSU offensive lineman Russell Orr said. “The sun goes down, and it gets a little cooler too. It’s a hostile place to play, and I like that challenge.”
    Orr’s teammates say they’re ready for the test and are pumped about battling in front the largest crowd they’ve seen this year. Saturday’s game is sold out, and the Mountaineers are expecting an overflow crowd of 30,000 for the Southern Conference showdown.
    With a seating capacity of 16,650, The Rock has literally been busting at the seams this season. Aided by back-to-back national crowns and a season-opening win at Michigan, ASU leads the FCS in attendance, drawing an average of almost 28,000 fans a game this year. That’s an increase of more than 7,000 from last season when the Mountaineers had the highest attendance in the league. Georgia Southern’s average turnout this year is just under 18,000, which ranks seven in the nation.    
    “Our crowds have doubled,” said Moore, who’s in his 19th year at the helm. “It’s not like we take it for granted or anything like that. We are obviously tickled to death. But it’s not any different than going to Statesboro, Furman or The Citadel to play. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
    To accommodate its enormous crowds, Appalachian is currently conducting a feasibility study on adding a 4,000-5,000-seat upper deck to the stadium’s east side in time for next season.
    The expansion is independent of an ongoing $32 million athletic facilities enhancement campaign, which includes a colossal 100,000-square-foot building behind the west stands that’ll house 20 stadium suites, locker rooms, offices, strength and conditioning areas and a press box. Construction is slated for completion in 2008-09.
    The facility will surely aid the Mountaineers in ever-increasing recruiting battles, although ASU hasn’t had trouble keeping the talent flowing in. No one’s knocked off the Mountaineers at home during the regular season since Wofford escaped The Rock with a 26-19 win in October 2002. Appalachian’s last home defeat came later that season in a first-round playoff loss to Maine. GSU is 3-8-1 all time in Boone and has won just twice at Kidd Brewer, most recently a 27-18 triumph in 2001.
    As Wofford coach Mike Ayers can attest, escaping Boone with a victory doesn’t come easily.
    “If you’re going to win up there, you’ve got to be on,” he said. “You’ve got to be dialed in, and you’ve got to be executing at a very high level. They have playmakers and difference makers at just about every position.
    “As a football team, No. 1, you’ve got to believe you can get it done. No. 2, you’ve got to go out and prove it. They’ve been a tough nut to crack, and I don’t envy anybody going up there and having to play them on The Rock. There are probably a handful of opportunities they will give you, and if you don’t capitalize on (them), then you are coming up short.”
    Because of an influx of transfers the last two years and numerous youngsters in the lineup, only a few players on Georgia Southern’s current roster have experienced playing at Kidd Brewer. The Eagles’ veterans are making sure the other guys know what to expect — a sea of black for ASU’s “Black Saturday.”
    “There’s going to be a lot of people cheering against us and booing, but it’s OK,” GSU quarterback Jayson Foster said. “We are prepared for it. The atmosphere reminds you of a home game.”
    Said senior running back Dusty Reddick: “When you play college football, that’s the kind of place you want to be — a hostile environment. It’s a beautiful stadium, and they are going to have that place blacked out. The fans are going to be crazy, but it’s going to be awesome.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.