MORGANTOWN — It can happen.
Hard as it is to believe, Liberty could come into Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday and beat the West Virginia University Mountaineers.
No one knows that better than Lonnie Galloway, who coaches the wide receivers on coach Bill Stewart’s WVU staff.
See, he was part of the biggest upset in college football history.
We know, around these parts that title belongs to Pitt’s stunning upset of West Virginia in 2007 when they knocked off a team ready to play in the national championship game as a four-touchdown underdog.
And there are those who would vote for Stanford’s stunner of USC a couple of years back, a bad team bringing down a team many felt would win the national title.
But, ladies and gentlemen, this was Appalachian State and mighty Michigan in the Big House.
It’s highly likely that not half of the 101,000 people who gathered that day in Ann Arbor knew where Appalachian State was, let alone understood that they had any chance at all to beat No. 5 Wolverines.
And Lonnie Galloway can tell you how.
“When we went into the Appalachian game we were coming off two national championships and were picked to be No. 1 again,” Galloway recalled.
This was not just another Division I-AA team, much as Liberty is not just another Division I-AA team. The Flames were 10-2 last year, knocked off a pair of nationally ranked I-AA opponents and are coached by a rising star in the coaching business, Danny Rocco, who comes from the Pittsburgh area, which might just give him a little more incentive.
The one thing Division I-A teams dare not do when facing schools from a lower classification is think that they do not possess the talent to pull off an upset. Take that Appy State team that beat Michigan.
“We had four players off the teams I coached there in three years who are now in the NFL,” Galloway noted.
That would be Jason Hunter with Detroit, Marques Murrell with the Jets, Dexter Jackson with Tampa Bay and Corey Lynch with Cincinnati.
Players make plays, and plays make upsets.
Go back to that game at Michigan: The Wolverines scored early. Appalachian State matched it when Dexter Jackson caught a 68-yard touchdown pass, the same Dexter Jackson who is in the NFL.
“We went in there thinking we’ll go in there and see what happens. We knew we had the players,” Galloway said. “Watching them on tape we saw some things we thought could work against them. After Dexter caught that pass and went 60 yards we knew we could play with them.”
And then there was the crazy ending to the game. Michigan lining up for chip shot field goal to win it.
Then suddenly insanity.
Corey Lynch blocked the field goal, scooped it up and ran 52 yards to the Michigan 18 as the clock ran out and the fans ran out onto the field.
And yes, it was the same Corey Lynch who now plays for Cincinnati.
So it can happen.
“It all depends on how you approach things,” Galloway said. “We had everything to gain and nothing to lose playing Michigan.”
Michigan lost it all.
That game changed the entire scene of college football, for it opened the door for Lloyd Carr to leave as coach and gave Rich Rodriguez a place to escape to after losing to Pitt, two upsets morphing into an incredible college football story.
“It was crazy,” Galloway said of the closing seconds. “First the kick was blocked, then Corey was running down the field and everyone was coming on the field. It didn’t sink in. We went into the locker room and ate our post-game meal, went and got on the plane and when we got home there were 16,000 people waiting for us. It was unbelievable.”
That was the reality of it, a reality West Virginia hopes to avoid on Saturday.
“We felt at Appalachian State like we could go in and win, Villanova felt like they could come in here and win last year and now Liberty feels it can come in and win. They had a great season last year. Everyone says on any given weekend you can get beat,” Galloway said.
It can happen.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.
MORGANTOWN — It can happen.
- Bob Herzel
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