KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Appalachian State’s stunning 34-32 win over Michigan in 2007 remains one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
But ask Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord about that dark day in Wolverines’ history, and it’s clear he has no interest in rehashing or reflecting on the details of what it was like to be part of that game.
“No, that’s in the past, and this is a new team, new program, and all that stuff, so no,” DeBord said Tuesday in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio, asked if he planned to talk to the team. “That’s so far in the past, I don’t even remember all that. I’m here to talk about them this year.”
The No. 9-ranked Vols opened as a 23 1/2-point favorite over Appalachian State in both teams’ season opener on Thursday, Sept. 1, at Neyland Stadium.
Back in 2007, Michigan was such a large favorite over the then-Division I-AA Mountaineers that Las Vegas didn’t even set a betting line.
The 109,208 at Michigan Stadium had no reason to believe the No. 5-ranked Big Ten favorite Wolverines were in jeopardy.
DeBord’s offense came to play, generating 479 yards of total offense behind future NFL QB Chad Henne, but the Michigan defense was a sieve.
The smaller, quicker Mountaineers found their way for 387 yards and actually won the time of possession, controlling the ball for 31 minutes, 12 seconds.
Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling was on that Lloyd Carr-led Michigan staff, too, working as the defensive line coach
“Strip has been a guy who has been honest about this game,” said Tennessee sophomore defensive lineman Khalil McKenzie, who remembers watching the game in his father’s office before heading off to play peewee football.
“He’s making sure we’re completely locked in and focused on App State, just making sure we’re ready to go, just working drills after drills.”
McKenzie was only 10 years old when Appalachian State became the first FCS team in history to defeat a ranked FBS team, but he’s confident he’s not the only player on the UT team who can recall it.
“I’m pretty sure everybody knows about that game,” Mckenzie said. “We’re just treating it as another opponent. That’s in the past.
“We’re obviously not Michigan, that type of thing, we’re Tennessee.”
Michigan went on to finish the season 9-4 and ranked No. 18 after beating defending national champion Florida and coach Urban Meyer in the 2008 Citrus Bowl, 41-35.
Appalachian State, meanwhile, went on to become the first school at that level to win three consecutive titles.
The Mountaineers moved up to the FBS ranks in 2014.
UT coach Butch Jones made it clear he has the Vols dialed in for the opener, even as excitement builds for the Sept. 10 Battle of Bristol against Virginia Tech, and questions abound about the 11-year losing streak to Sept. 24 opponent Florida.
“They’re a very talented football team, very well-coached, very disciplined, play with tremendous effort in all three phases and expect to win,” Jones said. “You look at the success they have. So they have our respect and they have our time, in terms of our practice structure. We’ll get more into App State as the week progresses.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.