Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore couldn't help noticing earlier this week that the opponent he watched on film to prepare his team for the final game of its 2007 season reminded him of its opponent in the first game of the 2007 season.
The Mountaineers were the toast of the college football world on the initial Saturday of September after they went on the road and upset fifth-ranked Michigan, 34-32. It marked the first time an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team had defeated a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) team ranked that high in the major-college poll.
When ASU looks to become the first team to win three consecutive FCS championships Friday night against Delaware in Chattanooga, Tenn., it will go head-to-head against a challenger with the same Michigan-style winged-helmet design, which was adopted by former Blue Hens coach Dave Nelson in 1951 and sustained by his successor, Tubby Raymond.
Nelson and Raymond graduated from Michigan, where the team colors of maize and blue are similar to Delaware's gold and royal blue.
"I've kept up with Delaware for a long, long time, and I'm very aware of that," Moore said of the resemblance yesterday in a conference call with reporters. "I've known Tubby for a ton of years. Yes, that did cross my mind."
Delaware coach K.C. Keeler, who played his college ball for Raymond, won't be changing the design anytime soon, having joked with reporters that one thing he was told when he was hired was, "Don't touch the helmets."
The fact is, Delaware (11-3) will be trying to do something Michigan couldn't do, and that is defeat the Mountaineers (12-2), who scored the final 20 points in their 55-35 semifinal victory over Richmond on Friday.
The win over Michigan was a time of much celebration at the Boone, N.C., campus, but it got to the point where Moore was concerned that all the attention would interfere with his team's ultimate goal of going for a third title.
"We thought we'd be very open with the team for what they accomplished and try to keep it in the right perspective," Moore said. "But there was all that fanfare. The first week, it was every day. Finally, we told them that we'll still do all the things that came from the win, but we'll do it only on Mondays."
The "things" to which Moore referred included signing footballs, helmets, and copies of the
cover depicting the Mountaineers' upset.
"We really didn't know how to cope with all of it at first," he said. "We finally decided to do it on Monday, which is a short day for us. But it brought a lot of attention to I-AA football and attracted recognition to our school and our football program."
ASU's Armanti Edwards, who set a record (FCS and FBS) for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 313 against Richmond, said that while he's proud of what his team accomplished at Ann Arbor, he's happier to be back in the national-title game.
"We made it this far, so we handled it well," Edwards said. "There were some distractions, and it gave us a lot of exposure. But if we hadn't gone back to the national championship game, that game would have meant nothing."
Edwards, a 6-foot, 175-pound sophomore, has accounted for 35 touchdowns this season. He has rushed for 1,499 yards (a 6.8-yard average) and 21 touchdowns, and passed for 1,750 yards and 14 scores.
Edwards aggravated a preseason shoulder injury in the Michigan win and missed four games (including a loss to Wofford) and part of a fifth after that before returning Oct. 20 in a 38-35 loss to Georgia Southern.