The Washington Post

After two big upsets, two small college towns will be living large


Most of us, statistica­lly, do not reside around Boone or Huntington. Most of us live neither in the western hills of North Carolina nor on the western edge of West Virginia. Poor most of us.

Did we just spend the back half of our Saturdays scrambling madly to the middle of Boone in whatever clothes we happened to have on to revel just as Appalachia­n State finished its monster 17-14 upset some 927 miles southwest at No. 6 Texas A&M? No, we did not. Did we get to crowd a sidewalk in Huntington as the team buses pulled in after Marshall had finished its monster 26-21 upset some 302 miles northwest at No. 8 Notre Dame? No, we did not.

Poor us.

We’re about to live weeks inferior to the weeks they’re about to live in Boone and Huntington.

Shall we get to sit around Boone and talk about how our utterly lovable program spent 9 minutes 15 seconds of gameclock time straddling the third and fourth quarters — 9 minutes 15 seconds! — using 18 delicious morsels of plays — 18 plays! — to go just 63 yards — just 63 yards! — for the winning field goal against haughty and overly moneyed Texas A&M? No, we shall not.

Shall we get to sit around Huntington and yak about how our team spent 5 minutes 16 seconds of Notre Dame’s home-field time in the fourth quarter using 11 scrumptiou­s plays to go 94 yards — 94 yards! — for the go-ahead touchdown against haughty and overly moneyed Notre Dame? Will we watch video of defensive back Steven Gilmore, 6 feet and 170 pounds, living the dreamiest dream by taking his pick-six 37 yards to clinch, his glorious hair flapping in the wind out the back of his helmet?

No, we shall not.

Most of us won’t be anywhere near Shawn Clark, the

47-year-old coach of the longproud Appalachia­n State program, who himself played offensive line for the Mountainee­rs from 1994 to 1998 and who got to weep on the field in College Station, then sit down and compare the 17-14 to the famous 34-32 upset at Michigan in 2007.

“Michigan was number five, is that correct?” He said. “And this [ Texas A&M] is number six. So to beat the number six-ranked team in the country — it’s two different programs, we don’t recruit the same level, we don’t have what they have — but we have a lot of heart.”

Oh, to sit around Boone and cry all over again at that string of words.

Most of us won’t be anywhere near Charles Huff, the 39-yearold, second-year Marshall coach, who got to tell reporters in South Bend: “In-house, we expected it. A phenomenal day for everybody who poured into this.” We won’t get to chortle at his observatio­n that “our kids stayed locked into the process” and notice that word “process” and think, Where have we heard that word before?

Oh, to sit around Huntington and remember Huff spent two years as an assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama. Or to reread the football program’s Twitter feed from Saturday night, which spiced the team’s return to town with updates such as, “On the interstate!” and: “Headed down 5th. Moving fast, but not as fast as Steven Gilmore on the Pick 6.”

Sure, mirth dots the week ahead, as it does all weeks ahead. There’s happiness at Kentucky, whose win at Florida revealed a deeply likable, unmistakab­ly unified team; at Iowa State, which finally exited

that six-game rut against Iowa; at Georgia Southern, which joined Appalachia­n State and Marshall to give the Sun Belt a banner week by winning a close one at Nebraska, even as everyone wins a close one at Nebraska; and at BYU, which nudged Baylor in double overtime in a tussle of toughies.

They’re just not quite Boone or Huntington.

In Boone and Huntington, they long since know they’re good and traditiona­l enough to ransack other people’s Saturdays.

Around Boone, the deathless Saturday just gone by brought that sentiment in the words of defensive back Nick Ross, who told reporters in College Station, “I bleed black and gold

— the whole team does”; linebacker Nick Hampton, who dragged out the football slang and said, “We already know who we is, just the team, just showing the world,” as the world seemed edible; or quarterbac­k Chase Brice, saying, “We knew we could hang.” Around Huntington, the deathless Saturday just gone by had quarterbac­k Henry Colombi telling reporters in South Bend: “We were going to have to score eventually. We’re a pretty high-powered offense, in my opinion, and we have playmakers all around the field. I believed it. We believed it.”

Oh, to be in Boone this week and talk time of possession: 41:29 to 18:31! To marvel how

the Mountainee­rs went from giving up 567 yards to North Carolina in that 63- 61 loss in which the loser scored 40 fourth-quarter points, to giving up 186 to a team allegedly aimed toward the College Football Playoff. To hear again how Appalachia­n State, with its donors and NIL totals a fraction of Texas A&M’S donors and name, image and likeness totals, well, here’s Brice: “The boys up front wanted it. You could just see it. They didn’t have to say it. . . . Timeouts or fake injuries, whatever it was, you could just see that we had kind of broken them down.”

My goodness, what rarefied good chatter.

Somebody around Boone might even drag out the Jimbo Fisher tape, in which the $95 million coach with the chronic sense of grievance rambled for more than three minutes, all but reading the play-by-play of the game to the media, sharing this pearl near the end: “Part of that is we’ve got to get off the field on defense, but you’ve got to keep it on offense when you get it.”

It could be fun, parsing that gobbledygo­ok, but that’s not really the point around Boone. The point might be to grin alongside non-jaded offensive tackle Cooper Hodges, who sat down for his interview in College Station and said: “This is my first time doing this. Pretty cool.” The point might be to compare days for a damnedgood program that went to overtime at Tennessee and Penn State in recent years. “Respect to all those guys,” Hodges said of the players who beat Michigan in 2007, “they were great, but I’m telling you, I’m tired of hearing about Michigan. You know, I want our legacy to be something, Sun Belt champions, and I want our legacy to be, you know, beating Texas A&M. That’s the thing we’re fighting for.”

Meanwhile, about 158 miles north up in Huntington, they will get to sit around and say a big whoa on that “Sun Belt champions” bit, for they, too, inhabit the 14-team Sun Belt. They just had their fabulous young coach, Huff, say, “The history and tradition of Marshall, you know, we show up, we play hard, and these games are just not as big to us [as] to other people” who perceive them from the outside. So after the bus emptied and some fans lined the street, the Marshall football feed showed Huff in his car, behind the wheel, giving the thumbs-up. A deathless Saturday waned, but up ahead lay a week around town with which the rest of us cannot compete.

 ?? SAM CRAFT/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Daetrich Harrington and the Mountainee­rs dominated time of possession in their upset of the Aggies.
SAM CRAFT/ASSOCIATED PRESS Daetrich Harrington and the Mountainee­rs dominated time of possession in their upset of the Aggies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States