STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Saturday is the 11th anniversary of the day Appalachian State, then an FCS program, stunned the college football world by going on the road and defeating No. 5 Michigan, an upset viewed in many circles as the greatest in the history of the sport.
Eleven years later, the Mountaineers are beginning their fifth season in FBS. Their game Saturday against 10th-ranked Penn State at Beaver Stadium marks the third consecutive year that they have visited a Top 15 team for their initial road contest. They played at national runner-up Georgia last season.
Obviously, they're not afraid of anyone. James Franklin has noticed.
"If you look at what they've been able to do in their short time in Division I, it has really been remarkable in a lot of ways," the Nittany Lions coach said this week. "They've played three bowl games, have won all three bowl games. If you look at their record over the last 45 games, they are in the top six in the country."
Appalachian State actually is 36-9 in that 45-game stretch, and only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have done better over that time. And while the Mountaineers haven't recorded an upset of nearly the same magnitude as the Michigan shocker, they have thrown a scare into a few Power 5 teams.
In 2016, they traveled to Knoxville and, after missing a go-ahead field goal with just over 5 minutes to play, took No. 9 Tennessee into overtime. The Vols won in overtime after their quarterback fumbled the ball into the end zone and his teammate recovered.
Last year, they welcomed Wake Forest to their cozy 30,000-plus-seat stadium in Boone, N.C., but the Demon Deacons blocked their 39-yard field goal try with 5 seconds left to preserve a 20-19 victory.
"No disrespect to anybody, but they really probably should have beat Wake Forest," Franklin said. "They had Tennessee beat and they had to go overtime for Tennessee to beat them. And everybody is well aware of the Michigan game."
That's the Michigan game of 2007, not the Michigan game of 2014, when the Mountaineers returned to the Big House and were thumped, 52-10, by the Wolverines in their debut as an FBS team. But the first one still has Franklin's attention.
"Do we talk about it? Yeah, we talk about it," he said. "But we're not going to harp on it because I want our guys ultimately, whether we're playing App State or anybody else, I want our focus to be on us."
Appalachian State is known for its speed, and has players who will test the Lions. Senior running back Jalin Moore has racked up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and is the nation's second-leading career rusher among active players with 3,170 yards. Junior cornerback Clifton Duck has 11 career interceptions in his first two seasons.
"I think [speed] is probably the main factor," Franklin said. "That's why you look at their program and how successful they have been, because that's been their focus."