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Sportsman

My Sportsman: Appalachian State

Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. For more essays, click here.

It happened in Austin and Berkeley. It happened in Boulder and Chestnut Hill and Gainesville. It happened in Lexington and Los Angeles and Piscataway. In 2007, the upset shook the college football season like never before, turning Goliaths into rubble and making every David believe that anything is possible.

Every team ranked in The Associated Press preseason Top 10 has lost, and it began with a game that the Las Vegas sports books refused to set a betting line on because it was such a mismatch.

It all began with my Sportsmen. It began with Appalachian State.

It began when defensive back Corey Lynch came off the edge on the game's final play to block a potential game-winning field goal from Michigan's Jason Gingell. Lynch scooped up the ball and returned it deep in Michigan territory, securing a 34-32 win. It was the first victory for a Division I-AA (renamed Championship Subdivision) team over a ranked Division I-A (Bowl Subdivision) foe since the AP expanded its rankings to 25 teams in 1989.

Appalachian State, like so many I-AA and I-A teams from non-Bowl Championship Series conferences, was scheduled, in essence, as a preseason game. The Mountaineers were a chance for a Wolverines team with national title aspirations to run wild on a group of players who would be rewarded by being able to tell their grandchildren, "I once played in the Big House." But on Sept. 1, the so-called Davids from Boone, a town of 13,000 tucked away in northwestern North Carolina, produced one of the most shocking upsets in sports history.

Four weeks after Big Blue suffered its black eye, Colorado beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma, Kansas State dumped No. 7 Texas and Auburn knocked off No. 4 Florida. More upsets followed as Illinois topped No. 5 Wisconsin and 41-point underdog Stanford stunned No. 2 USC the following weekend. Then Kentucky beat No. 1 LSU on the same day that Oregon State shocked No. 2 Cal. Rutgers followed by edging No. 2 South Florida and Florida State made Boston College the fourth No. 2-ranked team to fall. More recently, No. 1 Ohio State got tripped up by Illinois.

After every "we just shocked the world" triumph, we were reminded of how it began with Appalachian State's quarterback Armanti Edwards and wide receiver Dexter Jackson, whose superior speed and spread-option offense left the Wolverines dumbfounded. It also began with Jerry Moore, the coach who brought his perceived patsy into Michigan Stadium and left with an upset for the ages.

It began with a win that showed that anything is possible in college football. It began with a win that showed how no program, not even one with more victories than any other in the history of the game, is safe.

In a season unlike any other, it all began with Appalachian State, my Sportsmen of the Year.

Agree with this selection? Give us your pick for Sportsman here.

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