James Madison’s players and coach have long known they would kick off this football season with home away matches against Middle Tennessee State and Norfolk State. What the Dukes didn’t learn until March 1 was the opponent and where they debuted at the Sun Belt Conference.
When officials revealed the league schedule that morning, September 24th jumped off the screen: JMU in Appalachian State.
Yes, the Dukes, who didn’t officially join the Sun Belt until July 1, were tasked with the toughest conference opener imaginable: on the road against the League One program.
What no one imagined, however, was JMU’s take on the season’s opening month storyline.
Georgia’s early dominance? Alabama escape in Texas? Florida start undefeated? Nothing beats the App State Mountaineers app provided by coach Sean Clark on the last three Saturdays.
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And to think, the festivities are starting to lose.
App State 2022 opens at home against North Carolina, the inaugural Tar Heels visit to Boone. Since their program was elevated to FBS in 2014, the Mountaineers have hosted the Power Five Miami and Wake Forest programs, but UNC, the state’s premier institution, has been different.
Riveting does not do justice to what was revealed over the course of four or more hours at Kidd Brewer Stadium where the teams combined for 1,231 yards and 124 points. The fourth quarter alone saw 62 points, 34 in the last five minutes!
The Tar Heels only survived 63-61 when he stopped quarterback Chase Brice in a two-point conversion attempt with nine seconds remaining.
Surely the disappointment with that setback, and the realization that scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough, would put App State at risk the following week at that time — no. 6 Texas A&M.
Not much. Memories of Michigan’s 2007 road-conquest program evoke memories of mountaineers defeating the Aggies 17-14, leading to raves on the streets of Boone, NC
Originally booked for broadcasts from Miami-Texas A&M, ESPN’s College GameDay wisely changed course and headed to Boone ahead of the App State’s inaugural Sun Belt last week opposite Troy. To no one’s surprise, faithful mountaineers flocked to the group, as did JMU fans when the promotion traveled to Harrisonburg in 2015-17.
Troy, a two-touch schnauzer, led 28-26 with two seconds left. App State has its own 47-yard line, which is the perfect distance for Bryce to break prayer toward the end zone.
As the offensive line coach for Eastern Kentucky in 2005, Clark saw EKU defeat Southeast Missouri 33-32 at Hill Mary. It was the only time in his playing and coaching career that he witnessed theatrical work.
Until Saturday, when Price veered from Mountaineers receiver Dalton Strowman to teammate Christian Horne at about the 8-yard line. Courtesy of Instinctive Mass by Kayden Robinson, Horn raced into the end zone to claim a 32-28 victory.
“You can’t put a high price on the exposure we’ve been getting to our university through national and local media,” Clark said Monday.
The interest is not only limited to the Foundation, but also the Football and Sun Belt Program. We’re not suggesting that App State was an obscure college football site.
The Mountaineers won three consecutive FCS National titles from 2005 to 2007 and had no losing season since joining FBS. This marks App State’s ninth year in the Sun Belt, and under three coaches, the Mountaineers are £55-10 in team play, and 6-1 in the bowls.
The JMU 40-3 has been against the Colonial Athletics League competition for the past six seasons, a dominance that spurred the school’s FBS ambitions. The Dukes defeated Middle Tennessee and Norfolk State for this year’s Open, but neither of those opponents remotely resemble App State.
“We’re going to get tested, as if we haven’t tested all year,” JMU coach Kurt Signetti said.
At 61, Cignetti is 14 years older than Clark, but he’s never been on the winning or losing side of Hail Mary.
“Wow, I’ll tell you what,” Cignetti said. “What a game it was. Troy played really well and App State obviously was doing that too. … They kept it up until the end, didn’t give up and put in a great play. Nice block, nice capture. Huge win for them. It was a day Great for App State.”
“I’d rather not do it again,” Clark said. “I’d rather win with at least a touchdown. …The past three weeks have been exciting for our program. It’s been a wild ride. …I think we have a good program here, and it’s good for the whole world to see.”