NSSA: App's next challenge: LSU
By Ronnie Gallagher
First, they conquered the Big House.
Next for the Appalachian State Mountaineers:
Jerry Moore's three-time FCS national champion opens its 2008 season in Baton Rouge against LSU, the reigning BCS national champ.
After defeating Michigan last season, all college football eyes are on this team and its upcoming matchup with the Tigers.
Can Appalachian State do it again?
"We'll go down there and compete," said David Jackson, the voice of Appalachian State. "We're not even done with exams yet and those guys are salivating at the opportunity to get out on the field."
Jackson wasn't being cocky last year when he was on a talk show in Kalamazoo, Mich., before the Mountaineers' game in Ann Arbor.
He told the listeners, "At some point, your fans are going to look at each other and say, 'This team is better than we thought they were.' "
The talk-show host took that as an arrogant comment, according to Jackson.
"I said, 'It's not an arrogant comment. We're two-time national champions. We expect to come in here and compete.'
"Now, what 'compete' means, we'll find out."
They did, to the tune of a 34-32 victory by Appalachian State.
One reason the Mountainers won't be intimidated by the Baton Rouge setting is that they have played in huge college environments.
"Appalachian has been fortunate," Jackson said. "We've been to both Death Valleys ó Clemson and LSU. For the support staff, going to Michigan probably wasn't as daunting of a place as it was to the players. But it was still the Big House. You see Michigan and Ohio State playing there every other year and you get a sense of some of the history they've had there."
And don't forget, Jackson reminds us, that Appalachian State gave LSU a run for its money back in 2005 during a 24-0 loss. In front of 91,000 fans, the Mountaineers trailed just 10-0 in the fourth quarter and had squandered some scoring chances.
Also, some of the players from that App. State team will get the chance to redeem themselves in the fall.
"It's going to be like Michigan all over again," smiled Jackson of the pre-game hype. "It is being billed as a battle of national champions."
That is not lost on the LSU fans.
"It's a tough ticket," Jackson said. "The fans understand it's going to be a neat matchup."
On Saturday afternoon, while he and wife Leila were enjoying a reception, Jackson was still getting text messages from friends about LSU.
"I can't tell you how many times over the last 24 hours I've got something about Ryan Perrilloux getting kicked off the team," Jackson said of the LSU quarterback.
The messages are all the same: "That must mean we're going to win."
Jackson makes no prediction but he is thrilled to be a part of it.
"Will lightning strike twice?" Jackson mused. "We'll have to wait and see. But I know it will be something leading up to it."
Jackson shook his head and laughed.
"Lord help us if we ever lead in that game."
Bret Strelow will be in Baton Rouge covering the Appalachian State-LSU game for the Post.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.