A Trip to Appalachian State… Ruined!

By Mark Nagi

Regular readers of my articles know that I’d rather be at a ballgame than watch them on TV.  There’s something about the buzz of the crowd, the sound of the sport and the smell of the concessions that make the experience so much fun.

It was the reason why I became a sportscaster in the first place. I wanted to go to the games. The lack of opportunities to get to cover those games in person was one of the reasons I quit.

Ironically, it took me leaving my job as a sportscaster to get to attend more football games. Back in the day, I’d be watching the Vols most Saturdays on a 13-inch TV.

Not fun.

A couple of months ago I had the idea to go see a game someplace I’d never been. So, me and my friends Michael and Jim jumped in the car and made the three-hour drive to Boone, NC to watch Appalachian State take on Old Dominion on November 19th.

Earlier this season, Appalachian State upset Texas A&M. Old Dominion upset Virginia Tech. It felt like this matchup between the host Mountaineers and the visiting Monarchs was going to be a huge game in the Sun Belt Conference.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Appalachian State entered this game at 5-5 with Old Dominion coming to town at 3-7. No, my friends, ESPN College GameDay did not set up shop in Boone this time around.

If you’ve never been, Boone is worth the drive. It’s a neat little town that loves its Mountaineers. The tailgate scene might not be SEC caliber, but that doesn’t matter. There are just enough bars and restaurants on King Street to give you a place to spend some time before kickoff.

Before the game, we paid close attention to the TCU game against Baylor and the Michigan contest against Illinois. Losses by TCU and/or Michigan would help Tennessee’s chances of getting into the College Football playoff. We were probably the only people in the bar that cared about those games. Sadly, the Horned Frogs and Wolverines each won on last second field goals.

It wouldn’t be the only time that the college football gods failed to smile on the Volunteers that day.

Kidd Brewer Stadium is a tight-knit building with one end zone tucked into the hillside. 32,096 saw the home team jump out to a 27-0 lead, on their way to 27-14 win. My favorite moment occurred in the fourth quarter when Appalachian State faced fourth and long from the Old Dominion 34 while leading 27-0.

They punted.

From the 34.

That made me smile.

Anyway, after the game we headed by the house we rented to watch Tennessee play South Carolina on ESPN. Had the Appalachian State game been a Noon kickoff, we considered leaving Boon and driving to Columbia. We would have gotten there in time but alas, the Appalachian State gamer started at 2:30 p.m.

So, we settled in, expecting to watch Tennessee roll up on a South Carolina team that couldn’t score a single offensive touchdown the previous week against Florida.

The Vols’ offense was a machine. The Gamecocks were not, and they’d also be without their top two running backs. The only question would be how many points the Vols would win by…

That was supposed to be the plan.

As you know, South Carolina, a three-touchdown underdog, destroyed Tennessee 63-38. We watched this game in complete disbelief, as I’m sure Vols fans across the country did.

On our drive back, we talked about the loss, still failing to comprehend how that could have happened. Our time in Boone… ruined because of something that happened 185 miles to the south.

One of the great things about college football is its unpredictable nature. Even Alabama doesn’t win the national title every year. That makes the sport so fun…

Until it happens to your team.

But for real, check out a game in Boone.