by Kempton Smith, App State ’82
The hype, the hope, the anticipation. But it’s more than just that. Expectations are high. Excitement builds on the recent memory.
Many of the players and fans remember 9/21/19. App State went to Chapel Hill and won in a nearly sold-out Kenan Stadium. It was not supposed to happen. The stats were close but App was out-rushed and out-passed. A few individual performances (Evans, Thomas, Davis-Gaither, Taylor and others) sparked a very worthy team effort.
From the players’ perspective, some players have shared that UNC 2019 is their favorite memory from App State Football. The vocal Black-and-Gold traveling faithful amongst all the light blue locals left a lasting impression. For the fans, the lasting memory is D. Taylor’s strip-sack scoop and score and a partially blocked field goal at the end of the game.
For App State, a great 2019 season continued with a win over the Gamecocks, a home Sunbelt championship over LLLLLLLLouisana, and a bowl win. But why does the 34-31 win over UNC-CH stand out as the biggest prize of 2019, and why is this game in Boone, three years later, so special?
The reasons are the same
Proving it on the field
App State has had a winning tradition for decades. The media and fans of the ACC don’t believe App State can consistently compete with P5-level programs. Every game with a P5 team is an opportunity to change minds. In the Sunbelt era, the wins over University of Non Compliance and South Carolina, and the OT losses at Tennessee and Penn State are the best games on our resume. Losses to Michigan, Clemson, Miami, Georgia, and Wake Forest must be offset by wins.
Underrated and/or disrespected
UNC and App State compete for the same good players. Some App State teammates have said UNC led them on only to be told they weren’t big enough or good enough to play for UNC. A win is redemptive for the players who felt misled by UNC recruiters. A win also may sway future recruits to the west.
App coaches not on 6:00 news
The Media (national and state) gives more time to ACC schools. This game is important because it will help validate App State as a respectable team for folks living east of Winston-Salem. No newspaper outside Watauga carries App State football like the big 4 universities. No TV market covers our practices or coaches like they do the ACC teams. This game alone will not change that. But with wins against P5 programs, we will regain some of the media attention this program deserves.
Take DOWN big brother
As a state-supported institution, App State is officially a campus of the UNC System. No doubt it was financially wise for the legislature to create a central administration for the 16 state-supported universities but calling it the UNC System led to an ongoing superiority complex for the Chapel Hill campus (as perceived by the other 15). Adds this as an incentive to take down big brother.
Take down BIG brother
How big is UNC? In general, UNC has more than 3x resources as App and attracts higher-rated athletes. The ACC distributions are even more significant ($39m vs. nearly $3m). $39m from Media and Post Season distribution for UNC is more than App’s total athletic budget. (knightnewhousedata.org)
Size, money, or reputation has led more 4 or 5-star rated players to wear light blue. The number of 4 or 5-star players on the 2022 roster:
- University of Non Compliance – 23
- Appalachian State University – 0
App State has proven that player star ratings do not matter. The coaches have a reputation for finding and developing talent. It is argued that App performs better as a TEAM than other programs with higher-rated individuals. Taking down BIG brother with the financial resources and the highly recruited players would be so satisfying.
A P5 / ACC football team coming to Boone is rare
Miami (2016) and Wake Forest (2017) are the only other ACC (or P5) teams that have played in Boone. South Carolina is scheduled for a game in Boone ELEVEN YEARS from now. Most P5 fans will admit they do not want to travel to Boone. KBS is a challenging venue for visitors, yet App has never beaten a P5 team in Boone.
FOOTBALL CULTURE MATCHUP
Now it’s time for the good stuff. Let’s compare parking lot, stands, and scoreboard!
Doug Gillin has already suggested we should arrive early due to heavy traffic concerns. (Record attendance is expected. Traffic should be worse than the Miami game.) Arrive and set up as soon as App allows. Spend the morning in the parking lot. Cook breakfast or brunch, maybe a favorite morning beverage. Welcome our visitors in light blue. They were mostly welcoming when we visited three years ago. Thank the Heel fans for visiting; we hope they will want to play in Boone again.
Win the Stands.
Arrive in KBS early. This will be our first game with virtual tickets and our first noontime kickoff (ugh) since 2016. Expect 1/3 more spectators than our biggest ever crowd. It may be hot. Expect delays and long lines for food, beverages, and bathrooms. Be loud, be proud. Let players who could have come to Boone wish they had. Make those who chose App over UNC proud. Point on kickoffs. Be loud on third downs when App is on defense. When App has the ball, don’t be loud. Remind the Heels when we get first downs… 40,000+ people in KBS will be amazing.
Win the Scoreboard
Okay, this one is up to the team and influenced by how we handle the stands. It
will be App’s first game and the Heel’s second. (UNC adjusted its schedule and played Florida A&M as a
tune-up game last Saturday. Just another reason to want the win.)
It’s time to prove it on the field in Boone. App has never beaten a P5 school at KBS. The seats have been
sold for weeks. We need some memories etched from inside KBS, where 40k+ are cheering some
Go Apps! Beat University of Non Compliance!