Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hail to the Victors

The Greatest Game In Appalachian State History (V1.0)

The Index has talked about it at great length in the past (because – dawgone it – The Index saw the sumbitch live!), "it" being the damndest end to a football game you’ll ever see or hear about, the 2002 Appalachian State-Furman game.
Now that App State has climbed into the news reeeeallll proper-like, it’s time to revisit the now-suddenly-second-greatest moment in App State history.
I saw it, in an unreproducible set of coincidences, on my sister-in-law’s sofa in Greeneville, SC, where I had parked myself to collect on a “If you go with me to Greenville, you can watch football all day while I hang out with my sister”-deal I made with M.
It was Florida State-Miami weekend, before we all knew the wheels had come off the rivalry, and I was watching.
4: National Rank, App State on Oct 21, 2002
5: Rank, Furman
2: Games, in previous 5, in which Furman has scored 55 points.
60: Hours previously that I had been in Afghanistan. So I was a motivated watcher.

The Game To That Point

323: Furman offensive yards
204: App State

77: Offensive plays, Furman
44: Offensive plays, App State
17: Second-half Offensive plays, App State

7: Points scored by App State defense through first 59 minutes.

40:21: Time of possession, Furman

The Drive

73: Yards driven by Furman for go-ahead score
13: Plays
5:22: Time drained
2: After converting a fourth-and-2, yardline on which Furman QB Billy Napier fumbled… recovered by Furman.
2: Consecutive 5-yard Furman penalties after fumble.
12: Length of TD pass from Napier to Bear Rinehart(!)to put Furman up, 15-14.

7.4: Seconds remaining.

The Logic

At this point, Furman was up by one, with a PAT pending and 7 seconds from victory.
To lose, they would have to kick the PAT, and then allow App State to take the KO, drive the field and kick a field goal. THe same Ap State with 17 snaps in the half and 200 yards in the game.
Or… they could hedge against that by going for 2, reducing their already unlikely liability to overtime or forcing App State to score an even more unlikely TD
The PAT kick was useless to prevent that, while failing on a 2pt play was harmless to their current position. Ya know, to any reasonable degree of probability.
Why not go for it?
So they did.

The Conversion

4: Yardline on which App State linebacker Josh Jeffries intercepted Napier’s pass on the 2-pt attempt.
20: Yardline on which Jeffries, caught from behind by the pursuing Furman offense, lateraled to teammate Derrick Black, a safety. And as Uma put it on her in-house PA:"...Disco."
96: Yards in return
2: Points, for App State on the play.

App State 16, Furman 15, 7.4 seconds remaining.

Now what?

The Furman TV announcers, utterly out of their depth, thought they knew. App State had just crossed the goal line to score and take the lead. So Furman needed to take the kickoff, get a quick dump downfield and then try a chip sho-
And here came Furman lined up to… kickoff, giving the ball to App State. It was their TD, afterall. They’d been on offense.
“I can’t believe this!,” yelled the Furman guy in outrage.
And after an onsides (come on… that was gonna work?) and a knee-down, that was it.

You can keep your USC-ND ’05, your LSU-Kentucky Hail Mary and even Michigan-selfsame-App State. You want my Toughest Loss Ever, that’s it.

Here’s the full details:

Since that absurd afternoon, App State’s been on a quite a run.

First, an alum became the national darling of the Starbucks-set by writing “Freakonomics.” And more recently, they sewed up a 2011 Rhodes Scholarship when YouTube Academic Honor Grad Ms. Teen South Carolina announced that she'll be there next fall.

And now… Michigan.

And frankly, Michigan should have seen it coming:

3: Blocked kicks in a four-game span last year by App State’s Corey Lynch, who blocked (and damn near Furman-ed the rebound) Michigan’s attempt at a game-winning field goal. Maybe somebody should have been shadowing him there on the line up, whatchasay LLLLLoyd?
1676, 30: Yards, TDs rushed for in 2006 by running back Kevin Richardson, the latter a I-AA record.
2000, 1000: Yards passing, Yards rushing for App State sophomore QB Armanti Edwards last year.
4: Quarterbacks in NCAA D-I history to ever reach those numbers before Edwards.
1: Freshmen QBs to reach those numbers before Edwards.
36: Games App State has played against IA opponents. Sure, 29 were losses, but 8 weren’t.

And now that it's over, The Index still has one question that absolutely nobody has yet answered. In fact, the only person I have so far heard point it out was a drunk sorority girl at North Carolina, which is not where I usually go for my football analysis, but research wing of The Index is nothing if not thorough.

So Whad'Up Wit':...

69 – Yards App State drove in a bit over a minute to go up 34-32 with 30 seconds left
0 – timeouts left when they did it.
5 – Michigan Yardline on which App State had a first down.
30 – Seconds remaining in the game.
168 – Rushing yards App had gained to that point.
1 - down on which App kicked the field goal.
Wait- What? The 5 yardline? 30 seconds?
Did we learn NOTHING from Furman?
With a run and a spike – a Late Game 101 set of plays with far less risk than a field-goal attempt – App State could have drained the clock to zero and/or scored a TD. Instead, they took the kick on first down and gave Michigan 30 seconds to let a senior QB and the best reciever in the country make a play.
Which they did.
Bizarre coaching by App State’s Jerry Moore rewarded by terrible coaching and execution by Michigan, unless I'm missing something.
And how bad was the coaching?

2 - failed 2-pt conversions attempted by UM in the last 16 minutes, neither case in do-or-die situations.
2 - Losing margin.

There's your fireable offense, win or lose.
A PAT kick is a sure-thing (probably, what, 98-percent?), and the 2pt play is surely under 50-percent. So by definition its always the losing bet. Always. When is it OK?
Actually, almost never.
In fact, only in two situations: if you're two-points behind with no real chance of getting the ball back or, like Boise against OU last year, you're down by one and believe your 2pt-chances are better than your extended overtime chances.
In simpler terms, if you can reasonably still win without the 2, take the 1. For further clarifications, contact: Head Football Coach, Furman University. Try the main switchboard.

Next for the Conquering Heroes

This Saturday, App State gets to play Michigan to its own App State, so to speak, hosting D-II Lenoir-Rhyne of the South Athletic Conference.
You can learn more about the South Atlantic Conference on its webpage,

Elsewhere in the Tiny School World

52: First-quarter points, a new NCAA record, scored by Div II Mount Union against Averett, a Div III school located in Danville, VA.
50: Previous NCAA record for first quarter points scored against – any guesses? – yip, Prairie View.
Prior to this unforunate, touchdown-every-2.5 minute date with destiny, Averett was perhaps most famous for its claim to have been the first college campus in Virginia to be hit by the ‘streaking’ craze of the 70s.
Despite what Mount Union did to Averett, they appear to be a respectable team when matched against their peers, winning the USA South Athletic Conference last year.
Not TheSAC. The USAC.
In researching this item, The Index was disappointed to learn that when the adopted its name in 2003 – challenging TheSac for SAC dominance -it ditched the monicker its schools had played under since its formation in the 40s: the Dixie Conference.
I know my Saturday’s would be better with more Dixie and less SAC.

Where the USAC needs No Sac.

Perhaps the most noteworthy USAC member (he he!) is Peace College, which is apparently right here in Raliegh, though I’ve never heard of it. And it turns out the name “Peace” holds a delightful triple-meaning: it’s associated with the Presbyterian Church, as in “Peace Of Our Lord”; it’s named after a Presbyterian Minister, as in “Peace, of William Peace”; and its an all-girls school, as in “Total Peace Of.” As… you would assume, the school’s website (yip: will let you Give To Peace, though under amounts, there’s no check-box for “A Chance.” Damn.

A few quick hits, and then we’ll quote Davey Crocket

416: Passing yards for Colt Brennan against Northern Az. In the first half (not as impressive as Mount Union’s 52-in-15, but we’ll take it).
6: TDs, tying Brennan with Matt Lienart for 6th on the all-time TD list.
12: Days in roadtrip Hawaii is now on. To play UNLV and Louisianna Tech. Way to maximize publicity for your traveling dollar, Hawaii. Was the Peace Powderpuff team not available?
8:16: Time remaining in Florida-Western Kentucky game when it was called for lightning.
300: Tim Tebow passing yards against the moving-to-IA-Hilltoppers.
3: Years in Bill Callahan’s new contract extension, which still keeps him firmly in second place in the Charlie Wiess Cup, for Longest Guaranteed Contract Without a Big Win (formerly known as the Mack Brown Invitational, though we’re considering migrating that name to be co-sponsor of the Phil Jackson Classic for Biggest Genius Ever With Best Player of All Time).
21-of-23, 363: Line for OU quarterback and Ivan-Maisel-darling Sam Bradford in cakewalk over North Texas (I have a UNT alum in my class. She’s been broken up all week). Ivan has a point though: OU has every-friggin’-body back from a team that was a Statue of Liberty play and a David Boren-runs-the-Universe away from 1-loss last year. The only question mark was QB, and there ya go.

Now, as the man in the coonskin hat put it: You can go tell hell. I'm going to Texas.

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