Hundreds of Mountaineers fans celebrate upset win

BOONE, N.C. -- Shortly after Appalachian State pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in modern college football history by winning at Michigan on Saturday, the goalpost came crashing down.

More than 600 miles away. In Appalachian State's own stadium.

A few minutes after the Mountaineers stunned No. 5 Michigan 34-32 in the Big House, a group of Appalachian State students climbed a fence and tore down a goalpost in their own house. They carried the goalpost more than a mile from Kidd Brewer Stadium to the front yard of Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock's home.

"It's all right," Peacock said, after celebrating with hundreds of Mountaineers fans in the parking lot outside the school's football stadium late Saturday night. "As good as today was for Appalachian State, they can take it up there and put it down. I can't wait to get there and see it."

Razing the goalposts was the just the beginning of a raucous celebration in this small college town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina.

A campus tradition is to jump in the duck pond behind the dining hall after the football team's big victories. Well, beating the mighty Wolverines in front of more than 110,000 fans certainly called for a quick swim.

In the nude, which is what more than a few students did.

"I'm an Ohio State fan," said sophomore Dalton Shields of Boone after he climbed out of the duck pond -- with his clothes on -- more than six hours after the Mountaineers blocked a field goal that would have won the game for the Wolverines. "I come to Appalachian State and we beat Michigan! Are you kidding me?"

Visitors to Boone are greeted by a road sign that declares the town of 15,000 full-time residents as the home of the two-time defending Division I-AA national champions. It might be time for a new sign. They can add giant killers to the Mountaineers' credentials.

Never before had a Division I-AA team beaten a I-A team ranked in the AP poll. And no one expected the Mountaineers to beat Michigan, which was considered the favorite to win the Big Ten conference and contend for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

"Can we be ranked?" asked Cassidy McCorkle, a graduate student from Atlanta. "Bring on Boise State! Right now!"

Appalachian State's upset of Michigan might be unmatched in college sports. It is bigger than Boise State upsetting Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season. It is even more stunning than George Mason reaching the Final Four of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 2006.

"You go back to Miami and Boston College and Doug Flutie," Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said. "It's got to rank right there with all those other games. Certainly, this is one of those games everybody will remember and will keep talking about. It's going to rank up there with the best games of all time."

The Wolverines were supposed to be bigger, stronger, faster and deeper than the Mountaineers.

"A lot of people said Michigan would get better looks from their scout team," said senior safety Corey Lynch, who blocked the 37-yard field goal and returned it 58 yards with just seconds remaining.

Moore scheduled the game because he thought it would make his team tougher for its Southern Conference competition. But the $400,000 paycheck the school received from Michigan also will help pay the costs of a nearly completed $1 million practice facility and $40 million in stadium renovations.

"It turned out to be a $1 million game," Moore said.

It probably will end up meaning much, much more to Appalachian State. Only hours after the game, Peacock was dreaming of the impact the victory might have at his school: more applicants for enrollment, more academically qualified freshmen, greater donations from alumni and more school spirit.

"The Michigan people were great," Peacock said. "They told us, 'I'm glad you came. I'm glad you enjoyed it. But you're not coming back.'"

The Mountaineers couldn't wait to get back to Boone. After beating the Wolverines, the team flew back to an airport in Johnson City, Tenn., about 55 miles from campus. The team's four buses were greeted 10 miles from town by a caravan of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances.

"I thought there was a bad wreck," Moore.

When the buses reached the parking lot outside Kidd Brewer Stadium about 11 p.m., hundreds of fans had gathered to greet them. It took more than 20 minutes for the players to make their way from the buses to the locker room. Many fans already were wearing T-shirts that declared, "Michigan who? 34-32."

"This town will never be the same," said Kyle Shelton, a senior from Hickory, N.C.

The football program changed forever when Moore was hired as coach in 1989. He had been the coach at North Texas and Texas Tech and had worked as an assistant under Hayden Fry at SMU and Tom Osborne at Nebraska. But when Moore was fired as Texas Tech's coach after five seasons, he left coaching.

A friend hired Moore to work for his real estate development company in Dallas, and Moore traveled the country looking for potential property.

"He told me to hang up my jockstrap and come make some money," Moore recalled.

But Moore still had an itch to coach football. He spent much of the 1987 season at Clemson, where his good friend Danny Ford allowed him to stand on the sideline and go into the locker room. Then Ken Hatfield called and offered Moore a volunteer coaching position at Arkansas -- "volunteer" meaning no salary. Moore had three children in college at the time.

Moore's wife, Margaret, knew how unhappy her husband was out of football, so she encouraged him to take the job. They lived in a small, $200-per-month apartment, and Margaret taught middle school to help pay the bills. Moore joined the paid Arkansas staff in 1988.

At the end of the 1988 season, Appalachian State called to offer him the head coaching job.

"I didn't know how to spell it, how to pronounce it and didn't know where it was," Moore said.

It didn't take Moore long to build the Mountaineers into a Division I-AA power. Appalachian State went 9-3 and qualified for the I-AA playoffs in his first season in 1989.

The program really turned the corner the past two seasons. In 2005, the Mountaineers beat six nationally ranked I-AA opponents and defeated Northern Iowa to win the national title. Last season, Appalachian State lost at North Carolina State in its opener, but then won 14 games in a row, including a 28-17 win over Massachusetts in the national title game.

But beating Michigan was an entirely different matter.

"We knew we had a lot more heart than they had," Lynch said. "By the first quarter, we knew we were in the game. There were 109,000 people there, and they were pretty quiet."

It certainly wasn't quiet in Boone, where people partied deep into the night.

"It might be the biggest upset in history," said quarterback Armanti Edwards, who threw for 227 yards with three touchdowns. "That's what it sure feels like right now."

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.