NCF Nation: Appalachian State Mountaineers

1. Bob Stoops has won 149 games in 14 seasons at Oklahoma. He is nine wins shy of surpassing Barry Switzer as the all-time leader in Sooners coaching victories. And for the first time in his tenure, the Sooners failed to reach a BCS bowl in consecutive seasons. It’s not time to panic -- Oklahoma went 10-3 last season -- but the Sooners didn’t measure up to his standard, especially on defense. Stoops discusses his career, college football and his 2013 team with me on the ESPNU College Football Podcast posting Thursday.

2. Notre Dame returned to national prominence when it got bigger and faster. It was no coincidence, as I pointed out last season, that the Irish defensive linemen came from Texas (Kapron Lewis-Moore), Georgia (Stephon Tuitt) and Florida (Louis Nix). Here’s the other side of the geographic coin: Top punt returner Davonte' Neal (Arizona) and receiver Justin Ferguson (Florida) have left the program. A year ago, defensive lineman Aaron Lynch (Florida) left. Perhaps the margin of error on national recruits is thinner.

3. For as long as I can remember, athletic administrators have sprained their wrists wringing their hands over the rising cost of college football. And yet with the announcement that FCS powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are moving to the Sun Belt Conference, the number of FBS schools will increase 127, up from 119 five years ago. That means schools are choosing to spend more money. Perhaps because they are chasing more money, too, not to mention the glue that college football can provide a campus.

ECU almost lets one slip away

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:36
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

East Carolina nearly let Appalachian State back into the game behind third-string quarterback Travaris Cadet, who led the Mountaineers to three second-half scores.

But the Pirates made a huge stand with 1 minute 28 seconds remaining in the game by sacking Cadet and preserving the 29-24 win.

“I think we did some really good things in the first half, especially defensively, but we were still very sloppy,” ECU coach Skip Holtz said. “I think some of that can be attributed to the “first-game syndrome.” Appalachian State got after us in the second half. Offensively, we did not make many first downs in the second half. We could not control the ball or get off of the field on defense.”

Holtz has to be concerned since his team had a 24-0 lead before Appalachian State even had a first down. This game looked well in hand and should have been a statement blowout game for the Pirates. In the grand scheme, a win is a win, but mental lapses like that won’t fly when the Pirates travel to West Virginia next weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

As you've probably already heard or read, Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards suffered an injury to his right foot while using a lawnmower.

Edwards was mowing the lawn at his off-campus residence Wednesday. While pushing the mower up a hill, it slipped and went over his right foot.

Appalachian State trainers said Edwards is lucky to not have sustained more severe damage. And while he's in a protective boot, he should only miss two to four weeks. A statement released by the school said that Edwards should be ready for the Sept. 5 season opener against East Carolina.

"First of all, we're all fortunate and grateful that Armanti wasn't more seriously injured in this accident," coach Jerry Moore said. "It's unfortunate for him because he has put a lot of energy into being a great leader on and off the field this summer ... But, as he's demonstrated many times, his toughness is second-to-none, so I'm confident that he'll be back on the field with his teammates as soon as possible."

East Carolina is the reigning Conference USA champ and the season opener is the first of several major games on the Pirates' schedule. Appalachian State, led by Edwards, upset Michigan in 2007.

If Edwards can't play -- that four-week mark is right at the time of the ECU game -- backup DeAndre Presley will play in his stead. Presley, who backed up Edwards as a freshman last year and is the heir-apparent, completed 35 of 45 passes for 379 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns.

Presley also took the bulk of the snaps in the spring while Edwards recovered from arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 14 to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.

So, either way, it looks like East Carolina is going to have a game on its hands in the season opener.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A buzz went through the crowd on the first offensive play of the Rich Rodriguez era, as Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan deftly shuffled the ball to Martavious Odoms cutting across the field.

As the fans howled, Odoms gained three yards. No cloud of dust could be spotted from the press box, but it might as well have been there.

As far as creativity went, the first play was about as good as it got for Michigan on Saturday. So were the results.

To call the Wolverines' offense vanilla would be an insult to the term. Rodriguez came to Michigan as an offensive innovator, but his playbook might as well as been a pamphlet against Utah.

"We ran three different run schemes, that's it," Rodriguez said, "and then run maybe eight or nine different route patterns. We had to keep it simple. We don't want to confuse the young guys. We're probably as simple as we could ever be right now. At some point, we've got to add more."

Minimalism nearly helped Michigan rally past Utah, but ultimately an offense that needed to play beyond its means fell short. Hands on knees, Rodriguez watched the clock expire as Utah celebrated a 25-23 win and Michigan dropped back-to-back season openers for the first time since 1989-90.

The margin of defeat was the same and the second-half rally vaguely resembled last year's surge against Appalachian State. But there was no sense of shock on Saturday. Utah came in loaded with experience and eyeing a BCS bowl run. Many envisioned a Utes win, including the guys wearing red and white.

"You can't come in here to lose," quarterback Brian Johnson said.

Neither did Michigan, but its coaches entered the game with more curiosity than confidence.

As previously indicated, Rodriguez played two quarterbacks, substituting redshirt freshman Steven Threet for struggling starting Nick Sheridan early in the third quarter. Running back Carlos Brown, who played quarterback in high school, also took a snap. Rodriguez played four running backs and rotated plenty of wide receivers. But the glut of personnel didn't translate into production.

Odoms led Michigan with five catches -- for seven yards. Freshman running back Sam McGuffie led Michigan with eight carries -- for eight yards.

"When we released the depth charts with 'OR's' by a lot of [positions], that was for a reason," offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. "We didn't just to keep you guys wondering. There's really some 'OR's,' and that's going to play itself out."

Rodriguez declined to speculate on his quarterback situation for next week, but Threet made a decent case for starting consideration. The Georgia Tech transfer, making his first collegiate appearance, tossed two touchdown passes, including a 33-yarder to Junior Hemmingway with 8:42 left.

Threet didn't force many throws and converted two Utah miscues into touchdowns, though he didn't dazzle on a day when Michigan needed a little more pizzazz.

"He was seeing the field pretty well," Rodriguez said. "There's always things every player could take back, but he seemed pretty confident for the first time out there."

Sheridan's performance in the final few preseason scrimmages earned him the starting nod, but the former walk-on struggled to get on track. He executed short, safe routes but forced too many throws and was pulled after the offense committed two turnovers.

"Every loss is very disappointing here at Michigan," Sheridan said. "You're expected to win 'em all, and that will never change. So we've got to get better."

More than 108,000 people entered a construction site Saturday as steel beams towered above the east and west sides of Michigan Stadium, but the most building might take place on the field. Rodriguez publicly had taken a pardon-our-dust position with his offense, recognizing the personnel losses and the novices coming in.

But even the coach was surprised by the multitude of mistakes, particularly in the middle two quarters, as hopelessness began to set in. Michigan racked up just 102 first-half yards and failed to record a first down on its first three possessions of the second half.

This wasn't quite Notre Dame of 2007, but for a while, Michigan didn't seem too far off.

"I was hoping it would be less [mistakes)," said Rodriguez, the first Michigan coach to drop his home opener since Bump Elliott in 1959. "There was more than I was hoping, more made in the game than in recent practices, but I guess you should expect that. Those guys over there aren't going to make it easy on us."

Those "guys" dominated the first half at both ends and should have been up much more than 12 points at the break. Utah senior quarterback Brian Johnson ripped apart Michigan's secondary for 253 passing yards, and the defense held the Wolverines to four net rushing yards in the half.

All-American specialist Louie Sakoda had a busy day, kicking four field goals and launching several booming punts. He also had a punt and an extra-point attempt blocked but never lost his composure.

"The special teams' game has proven more and more vital over the years," Sakoda said. "Coaches are going out, recruiting more heavily now and I'm glad I could come in here and prove myself."

Running back Matt Asiata admitted panic set in as Michigan rallied behind a revitalized defense, which recorded six sacks and shut down Johnson after halftime. But the experience differential loomed large down the stretch.

"We worked so hard since January," Asiata said. "It's a dream come true, winning in the Big House. I'm just speechless."

Michigan still plans to have a say this season, and the defense certainly looked promising after a poor start. But how fast can the offense catch up?

"You have to put enough in to have a chance against certain defenses and yet not confuse the young guys," Rodriguez said.

"There's ways to expand it," Threet said. "When the game plan calls for it, that's what we'll do."

Moments later, Threet left the Crisler Arena interview room, draped a white towel over his head and alone, unnoticed, away from the stadium. It was an ordinary exit, seemingly too ordinary for a Michigan quarterback.

But for now, ordinary will have to suffice at Michigan.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- I've arrived at the Big House and it's an absolutely perfect day. I'll bet Appalachian State wishes it were back here rather than Baton Rouge (ouch). The construction beams tower above the east and west sides of the stadium, and some Michigan cheerleaders are practicing on the big M at midfield. I'm going to check out this new Victors Walk in a bit.

It's been a good day so far for Big Ten teams, except Northwestern.

  • Ohio State running back Beanie Wells already has a 43-yard touchdown run through an enormous hole against Youngstown State, nearly matching his game rushing total (46) against the Penguins from last year. Expect big things from Beanie this year.
  • Wisconsin must have been ticked off by my prediction of a fairly close game early on against Akron. The Badgers scored two touchdowns in the first eight minutes, including a 3-yard strike from new starting quarterback Allan Evridge to backup tight end Garrett Graham. But the big story is P.J. Hill -- he already more than 100 rushing yards. Starting tight end Travis Beckum likely will sit out the game with a hamstring injury.
  • Penn State jumped all over Coastal Carolina, as Evan Royster has two rushing touchdowns. New starting quarterback Daryll Clark completed his first four pass attempts, and Derrick Williams just returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
  • Iowa also looks strong on offense against Maine, as running back Shonn Greene and embattled quarterback Jake Christensen accounted for touchdowns.
  • Indiana is up 10-0 on Western Kentucky.
  • Northwestern fell behind 3-0 to Syracuse and appears to be getting back in pass-happy habits. If new offensive coordinator Mick McCall starts feeding Tyrell Sutton, he'll likely get some better results, especially in the red zone. The Wildcats don't look sharp on offense, but the defense just forced a safety.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan safety Stevie Brown tries to block negativity from his life whenever he can. The problem is he also owns a TV.

 
 Leon Halip/Getty Images
 Stevie Brown and Michigan still remember last year's season-opening loss to Appalachian State.

When Brown flips through the channels, he's often comes across those unsightly images, the ones showing the little team with the funny name stunning the big team with the famous name. There might as well be a station called WLAS -- Wolverines lose to Appalachian State.

"It was hard to get over because every week, we saw the clips being played," Brown said. "It's still being played right now. So it's always something that stays in the back of your mind."

Does Brown relive Michigan's 34-32 loss, considered by many to be the biggest upset in college football history?

"Nah, I change the channel right then and there," he said.

Brown might want to unplug his set this week. The Wolverines enter a new era with head coach Rich Rodriguez and dramatically different schemes and personnel, but the Appalachian State loss will undoubtedly be rehashed as another season dawns Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

Rodriguez and most of his assistants weren't in Ann Arbor for Michigan's historic setback last fall, and though they focused on installing new systems with mostly unproven players this summer, there have been some not-so subtle hints about the game. Brown remembers a particular conversation he had with one of Michigan's graduate assistants.

"The one thing the GA told me was, he didn't believe it and the coaching staff didn't believe it, but when they came in, they heard that No. 3 would just have mental mistakes and blow coverages every now and then," Brown said. "I didn't ask where it came from, they didn't tell me where it came from."

It doesn't take much detective work to find the likely source. Brown started the Appalachian State game, got burned on a 68-yard touchdown and several other plays, and began the second half on the bench.

Don't expect a re-run Saturday against Utah.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES