On Sept. 1, 2007, I was in Ohio Stadium, watching Ohio State start the season off against Youngstown State. The Buckeyes were coming off a rather upsetting loss in the BCS Championship Game at the end of the previous season to Florida Gators. (They had a pretty good coach that year. Someone should check on him and see what he's up to these days.) As expected, the game wasn't the most exciting spectacle of sport; the Penguins lost 38-6 and didn't make it to the end zone all game. It was your standard "beat up a small school to start the season" kind of game. Not a very memorable day, right? Wrong.
As per usual, during breaks in the game, the good people that run the 'Shoe would give us updates on the rest of college football's opening day. Scores from around the country and conference were periodically displayed around the stadium. Again, nothing too exciting, until the second quarter, when the scoreboard showed us something very interesting.
Michigan was losing.
The Wolverines went into the 2007 season ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll, a whole 6 spots ahead of the Buckeyes. The year before, when we had faced them at the end of the regular season, it had been No. 1 Ohio State against No. 2 Michigan, the first time in history that we'd met as the top two teams in the nation. "The Game of the Century," they'd called it, and the Buckeyes had prevailed. That loss to the Gators knocked us down a few pegs, though, and seeing That Team Up North ranked above us always hurts. So it was a very pleasant surprise to see that, not only were they struggling in their season open as No. 5, they were struggling against someone even lower on the totem poll than our MAC opponent.
I speak, of course, of Appalachian State.
These days, the Mountaineers are a team known to Buckeye fans far and wide, but back in 2007, they were just an FCS team that was supposed to get a lot of money to lose on national TV in the inaugural broadcast of the Big Ten Network. Vegas didn't even give a betting line, because "Michigan by a billion" seemed like a rude thing to say. When the Wolverines were down by 11 at the half, though, the predestined win started to look a lot less destined.
I don't remember any specific details about the Ohio State game that was happening on the field in front of me. Did Hartline, Robiskie, or Sanzenbacher have any sweet receptions? I don't know. Did Laurinaitis make any bone-shattering tackles? Not sure. Did specials teams dominate? Probably. (This was Tressel-ball, after all.) Like I said, nothing about that Ohio State game stands out.
What I remember is the Michigan game. Every time we got a score update, and the Wolverines were losing, Ohio Stadium went nuts. We were cheering harder for a game we couldn't even see than the one right in front of us. To paraphrase Heath Ledger's Joker, if a MAC team gets beat up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan." But if one little FCS team can keep up with a top-five team, well then everyone loses their minds!
It was chaos. The Ohio State game just became background noise. We were captivated. All 105,000+ people in the stadium were glued to the scoreboard or our phones, texting people for updates. (The first iPhone had just come out a few months ago; we couldn't rely on Siri to keep us informed.) Neither team could pull away. It was gonna go down to the wire.
When the Ohio State game was over, we left our seats, but we didn't leave the stadium. Everyone who had stayed poured into the concourse, where every TV was set to the BTN. (They showed it on the scoreboard, too.) Our game had finished a bit earlier than theirs. With less than two minutes to play, we weren't going anywhere. We watched as the Mountaineers, trailing by a point, drove down to the red zone and took the lead with a field goal. We watched as Michigan, with less than 30 seconds to play in the game, put up a huge pass that left them in field goal range with six seconds left in the game. And then it happened. Appalachian State blocked the kick.
The Horseshoe went crazy. It was louder than we'd been when the Buckeyes had won just minutes before. The concourse was full of people jumping and shouting. The marching band played the Buckeye Battle Cry. We all joined in a rousing rendition of "We Don't Give A Damn." It was pure madness, and it was beautiful. Immediately after the play, Thom Brennaman called it "one of the greatest upsets in sports history." Many people have said that it's the greatest upset in all of college football. And they're right. You know why?
Because we don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.