|COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: Lenoir-Rhyne embraces attention that comes with being new for App St.|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 05 September 2007 10:25|
HICKORY, N.C. (AP) -To the rest of the nation, Appalachian State is the classic giant-slayer, the small town team from college football's second-tier that toppled mighty Michigan.|
Not to Lenoir-Rhyne. To these Bears, the Mountaineers are just as imposing as the team they knocked off.
Lenoir-Rhyne, the Division II school nestled in the hills of western North Carolina, is hoping for an Appalachian State-sized shocker of its own when it visits those very Mountaineers in their first game since they pulled one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
``Look here, little ol' Lenoir-Rhyne, we're drawn into it,'' coach Fred Goldsmith said. ``We've become somebody people are talking about.
``We're riding App's coattails to the top of the mountain.''
Appalachian State's 34-32 stunner at Michigan's fabled Big House sent shock waves throughout the sport and thrust the spotlight on this private Lutheran college with an enrollment of about 1,600 and a modest athletic history. Until now, Lenoir-Rhyne was most famous for producing Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes and winning an NAIA football championship in 1960.
``I can't stand here and say it's not a big deal, playing against the team that just beat Michigan,'' quarterback Daniel Anderson said.
Last week, Anderson watched Appalachian State match Michigan big play for big play, rooting for the upset but convinced the mighty Wolverines would find a way to win.
It wasn't until safety Corey Lynch blocked the game-winning field goal that the magnitude of the moment began to sink in for Anderson - who will make his first career start Saturday against the Mountaineers.
``I watched it, stayed glued to the TV because I was interested. I stayed even more glued to the TV when I heard they were playing with them,'' Anderson said. ``You think (a) I-AA school playing with a big school like Michigan, there ain't no chance. But they showed them up.''
That's what Anderson hopes to do to the Mountaineers, even though on paper, there's virtually no way Lenoir-Rhyne can match up.
Appalachian State - the two-time defending champions of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision - has 63 scholarships. Lenoir-Rhyne may offer only 25, and they're divided among the players, meaning no Bear receives a full ride.
Two days before Appalachian State outplayed Michigan, the Bears were thumped 28-13 by fellow Division II school Virginia Union.
``We've got to go play well,'' Goldsmith said. ``Appalachian needed to take advantage of their opportunity last week and they did. We've got to take advantage of this. But we've got to get a whole lot better because we lost to Virginia Union.''
While the doubters might think Lenoir-Rhyne will need a miracle just to hang with the Mountaineers, the Bears have a new coach who made a career out of achieving unthinkable results - Goldsmith once led perennially lousy Duke and Rice to winning seasons, and is the last person to coach the Blue Devils in a bowl game.
Now his current players hope the veteran coach can conjure up another surprise.
``We definitely believe we have a chance,'' running back James Pone said. ``If anyone believes, it's definitely the ones out here. Not many people outside of here are giving us a chance.''
The former Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year who led Duke to the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl was away from college football for eight years before Lenoir-Rhyne hired him in November. And the man who lured him back - athletic director Neill McGeachy - was a predecessor of Mike Krzyzewski as Duke's basketball coach in 1973-74.
``He's well known and beloved,'' McGeachy said Goldsmith. ``He's respected. We're going to be the beneficiary of that for a long time. Every step he takes he just reeks of savvy.''
There's plenty of history between Appalachian State and Lenoir-Rhyne, who once were rivals in the North State and Carolinas conferences. They haven't met in 25 years (the Mountaineers won 49-0 in 1982) and Lenoir-Rhyne hasn't beaten Appalachian State since 1974.
``Part of our strategic plans is to do things that draw national attention,'' McGeachy said, ``and by George, this is going to be one.''
Ever since he was hired in 2002, McGeachy tried to convince the Mountaineers to visit Hickory - ``They just simply wouldn't take the bait,'' he said - and when both sides agreed to play in Boone, Lenoir-Rhyne broke its contract to play Virginia State.
``It's the biggest opportunity most of us will ever have,'' Pone said.
Clearly, Lenoir-Rhyne has the same everything-to-prove attitude that the Mountaineers brought into Michigan last week, and a victory would mirror what happened last year, when I-AA Montana State stunned Colorado, then lost the next week to Division II Chadron State.
``This is an opportunity for them. They're Division II players and in every guy's mind, he probably thinks he should be playing in the Southern Conference or the ACC,'' Goldsmith said.
``It's only natural. 'For some reason the high school coach didn't send enough film or if I hadn't got hurt or if I was 10 pounds bigger. I'm really as good as those guys.' Now they get the opportunity to see it for themselves and prove it.''
AP Sports Writer Mike Cranston contributed to this report.
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