How could anyone expect Moore to not remember the Mountaineers’ 34-32 victory at No. 5 ranked Michigan last season? After all, it was one of, if not, the biggest upsets in college football history marking the first Division I Football Championship Subdivision team to ever defeat a nationally ranked BCS opponent.
That win alone has overshadowed the three consecutive national championships his teams have won but you won’t hear about Moore taking his current players for a trip down memory lane.
“It’s strange how everything gets compared to Michigan from last year when we’re always trying to tune it out and put it behind us,” said the headman.
While Moore knows that he has to put that glorious day up in Ann Arbor in the back of his coaches and players minds he also knows and understands how important it was for a school that often got overlooked for its remarkable accomplishments on the field.
“The win against Michigan brought our school and athletic program, particularly our football program, more national attention than anything that ever happened here on this campus,” he said. “The media always asks us to compare the Michigan win to winning the national championship but they’re two different entities. But Michigan (the win), obviously, from coast to coast brought us more national recognition in every aspect than winning the national championships did.”
When you play at the FCS level, formerly known as Division I-AA, you’re always going to have to battle the stereotype that goes with it.
Some feel that because it isn’t considered major college football and since the talent level that the Mountaineers have is not as good from top to bottom as you see at BCS level that they should be looked at as the typical rent-a-win opponents.
However, as Les Miles and his defending BCS national champions prepare to face Appalachian State on Saturday in Tiger Stadium they have a completely different mindset on the season opening opponent.
“They play well year after year,” said Miles. “I think Jerry’s done a great job in guiding the program. Certainly, they‘re in position to play strong against anybody. They have a great football team. It’s not specific to any division. They have a good football team.”
When Moore brings his Mountaineers into Death Valley on Saturday it will be his second coming of sorts as Appalachian State played the Tigers very close in Miles’ first season at the helm with the game ending in a 24-0 LSU victory.
That meeting in 2005, though, was not Moore’s first taste of Tiger Stadium as he was a wide receiver on Baylor’s 1960 squad that defeated LSU 7-3 and finished ranked No. 11 in the country.
Moore knows things are a little different now but he seems to have a pretty good idea of what to expect come this Saturday.
“It’s a challenge to you and the drive in there is an exciting thing for a 19, 20, 21 year old guy, and the same thing for an old coach,” he explained. “It’s exciting to drive down that drive and have everybody hollering at you walking from the bus to the locker room. Then the Tiger is down there where we enter the field. It’s a lot of mystique and a great atmosphere to play in.”
The mystique and the atmosphere will surely captivate the Mountaineers come Saturday and that will be something Moore and his staff will try to curtail.
They hope to stay in the game and do the things that helped catapult them onto the national stage last season and if they do then they know there is a chance the program could reach even higher heights.
“I think the first thing that comes to mind for us is to keep mistakes at a minimum and to give ourselves a chance,” said Moore. “We had very few penalties at Michigan and our kicking game was pretty solid. Those two things alone kept us in the game and gave us a chance. I think that’s the No. 1 thing for us.
“We know that we’re a huge underdog and that chances are even worse than David and Goliath,” Moore added with a laugh. “We don’t have enough smooth stones up here but we’re looking forward to it and hopefully it will make us a good football team and a better football team.”