I don’t remember exactly when it was that I saw the game had been added to the schedule, but when I saw Miami was slated to face Appalachian State in Boone, I said: ………heh???
However, what followed was one of the greatest road trips I had ever taken in my life.
My friends from UM law school – Matt, John, and Andy – and I try to get together every fall for a football-related event. When the game was added, we realized we had a great opportunity in front of us, because Andy has a second home in Zionville, about 20 minutes outside of Boone. He invited us all to come up, stay for the weekend, and go to the game, so we obliged.
At the time, we hadn’t seen each other since 2013. I finished working early that Friday and hopped in my car in Bluffton, SC, where I live, and headed north up I-95. After 3.5 boring hours (SC is only a tad less boring on the interstate than Georgia), I pulled into the Charlotte airport parking lot, where I scooped up Matt, who had flown in from Tampa.
Then, we pulled back onto the road and headed north on 321 towards Boone, which is about 2 hours or so from Charlotte. We winded our way into the western North Carolina mountains, eventually seeing the signs for Boone dwindling to single-digit miles (don’t spend too long looking at road signs or taking in the mountain views, or you’ll end up like the end of Thelma and Louise right over the edge; dangerous roads up there).
We rolled into Boone with the “U” car flags flying and my “U” decal on the car. Like any good visiting fans, we stopped off at the first liquor store we could find not far from campus. We walked in and picked up some booze and were greeted with a welcome-to-Boone from an older gentleman. I mention this because it would be a theme of kindness for the rest of the weekend, BUT ONLY FROM THE GUYS. Will get to that in more detail later.
In any event, we cruise down King Street (one of the main drags by campus), flags flying, windows rolling down. There were App State flags hanging from the light posts. There was black and gold EVERYWHERE. That place had as much school pride as any place I’d seen. And I get it, especially that weekend. App State was still working its way up, but had established itself as a championship-caliber program at the FCS level. They had just taken a top-10 ranked Tennessee team to overtime two weeks earlier.
We made our way up 321 and ended up at the beginning of an impossibly windy road. “Dude, this can’t be right,” I said. But it was. I made curves that were so sharp, as the road seemed to snake on forever. Eventually, we came to a clearing, and up at the top of the mountain was a number of gorgeous vacation mountain houses, and there was Andy’s. And there was John, being a goofball while holding a beer high above on the front porch as we made our way up the long drive to the house. We all caught up, taking in the splendor of the mountains. I mean….just look at this place…..
So after shooting the bull and catching up over some ice-cold ones, we call a cab and end up with a ride from a cab driver who was a good sport (and driver) in taking us to downtown Boone and giving us his card to call to get back home. We ended up having dinner at a microbrewery called Lost Province that Friday night, where we ended up spending a while having pizza and a bunch of different ice-cold ones. Went to the bathroom and John dumped salt in my beer while I was gone. Jack wagon.
After we left the brewery, which was right off King Street, we walked up King Street and ended up at some old dive bar that I had been to before with my ex-wife on a skiing trip. Don’t recall the name of it, but was the last bar before you got out of town westbound, on the south side of the street. We ended up shooting pool and putting away more beers than we should’ve.
We shot the bull with some folks at the bar, and the talk was the same: everyone was nice and flat-out ECSTATIC that we were there. Miami, its fans, the ESPN folks. Everyone, all of it. It was the best thing that had ever happened to Boone and App State, and from the party the next morning, it was obvious that the Friday night hype was spot on.
After groggily waking up (the same cab driver took us home; I lost my best Tampa Bay Buccaneers visor in that van though), we cabbed it back down to the campus area, having breakfast at some restaurant on King Street right across the street from where we were pounding beers the night before. That’s not something I recommend, folks. Eating food while having the jitters from drinking the night before while looking at the establishment where you drank way too much was………weird. We did sit outside, and the weather was absolutely perfect, so we had that going for us, which is nice. Boone weather in September is akin to what I would imagine heaven feeling like.
From breakfast, we left and began what would be a seemingly never-ending walking tour of the Appalachian State campus. And everywhere we went, there was a giant gold “A” on black, whether it was a flag, a shirt, a tailgate tent, you name it. And available real estate on campus for parking was almost impossible to find. The App Staters were out in full form early. And, once again, the guys would see us in our Miami gear, and offer a handshake and some kind words.
Thanks for coming. Where are you guys from? Are you guys having a good time. How do you like Boone?
I’m telling you, it’s downright weird how nice the guys were to us there. Aside from maybe one rogue “Miami sucks” near the stadium before kickoff, not one guy said one bad word to us. Only welcoming. And, again, I said “guy”.
On the other hand, the women of Appalachian State were as nasty and foul-mouthed as any place I could have ever imagined. We were met with countless F you, Miami, you suck, get out of my town-type of comments from the start of Saturday morning until Miami had sent everyone home unhappy by 2:30 pm. And it was always by a young lady in App State gear!!!! They were as unfriendly and hostile as the guys were welcoming and polite. And these were unwelcomed and unprovoked comments, as my friends and I are all in respective marriages or committed relationships and were doing nothing more than wearing shirts or hats having the words “Miami” written on them while walking and minding our own business. Hand to God. Off the top of my head, I remember at least four times where we were told off out of the blue, having not even looked at them prior to said comments. Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina. I’ve been to all of those schools, and not once has any of them come anywhere close to that level of vitriol. It was uncanny. And most of this was while we were walking from breakfast to grabbing a beer at a bar/restaurant called Elevation 3333 not far from Kidd Brewer Stadium.
As we sat there at the bar having a beer, we had seen not an hour earlier the App State players come from the football facility and head towards the stadium. We were absolutely shocked at how normal-sized these guys seemed. “How did these guys hang with Tennessee?” we wondered. I had been worried about this game, but my friends’ doubts faded as soon as they saw them walk by us. Dude, the Canes are going to crush those guys,” Andy said. Matt, John, and Zach (Matt’s little brother who had come with us on this trip) probably did too. I was the most concerned of all of us, I think.
We headed towards the stadium, and it was a beautiful sight to see, no lie. I don’t know when App State renovated their campus, but the architecture looks new and is gorgeous. Add in the scenery from the mountains, and you’ve got as gorgeous a gameday setting as you will find anywhere in the country, I swear. The stadium is up on a hill, with trees surrounding it.
To accommodate a record demanding of fans, the school opened up seating in the grassy hill in the open end zone, and it was filled as much as it could have been. There were even people watching from the street through the fence, where much of the field could be seen. It was an absolute mob scene getting in. After we did, I went to the first tunnel I could find and snapped this picture.
I’ve been all over the southeast to games, and I was in awe of the scene. Absolutely awesome. We made our way to the other end zone to our seats and settled in right on the edge of Miami and App State fans. I think we might have been the first row of Miami fans.
In any event, the Canes took the field, and it was at that moment that I learned that App State fans aren’t…..well…..maybe aren’t all that seasoned in heckling opponents or firing up their own team. A few seats away from us, as the Canes took the field on offense after stopping App State on their opening drive, a twenty-something guy bellowed out, “GET THEIR (insert crude male anatomical word that starts with a D)!!!” Our group absolutely lost it laughing.
Our laughter turned to joyous screams and their chants turned to silence when Mark Walton took the handoff from the 20 on the Canes opening offensive play, ran over the safety, and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. While we high fived and laughed, the fans around us were understandably in total shock. They were supposed to win this game and make a breakthrough on a national scale. To a person, it seemed like they believed this. Instead, Miami punched them in the mouth early, and they began to see what superior athleticism and skill looked like.
Miami took control on the next drive, with Kaaya repeatedly throwing bubble screens outside, and App State refusing to adapt timely. Kaaya finished it off to a touchdown strike to David Njoku, and it was 14-0.
By means of a comedy break, same joker near us, in an apparent attempt to fire up his team, yelled – and I kid you not – “FILL THEIR BUTTS WITH MUD!!!” Since that day, we refer to a pending blowout as a team backing up the mud truck, and the hapless opponent about to get seated on the nozzle. Thanks for this timeless bit of comedic gold, random, awkward App State fan.
Later, at the end of the first quarter, Kaaya found Stacey Coley wide open behind a lost defense, and he trotted down the sideline for a long touchdown and a 21-0 lead. Braxton Berrios followed that up with the prettiest sideline catch you’ll ever seen, dragging a toe while fully extended on a cross-field pass from Kaaya to extend a drive that led to a 24-0 advantage. The defense held near the goal line and forced a field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.
We tilled around the concession stands at the half, and I overhead some disgruntled fan mumbling about App State giving Miami everything they had and making a season worth of mistakes, that Miami wasn’t very good. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was an absolute outclassing, and yet someone could still see it as a fluke. Amazing.
The second half started like the first – with a Miami big play. Njoku caught a pass in the flat and rumbled up the sideline into the App State red zone. Coley then caught a pass and made his way inside the five. On fourth and goal, Kaaya rolled out and lobbed a ball at the goal line that was picked off and returned 60 yards. Kaaya came up gimpy after getting hit on the return. We were standing there stunned, hands over mouths, wondering most of all if Kaaya was going to be ok, while the App State goofs jumped and danced around us. They would end the drive with a touchdown and draw to 24-10. Kidd Brewer Stadium suddenly had a ton of life.
Then, on 3rd and 10 deep in their own territory, Miami ended all hope once and for all.
Kaaya (gimpy, but fortunately ok) lobbed a ball deep, and Ahmmon Richards caught the ball over his head in stride and went down inside the red zone after getting tackled by the facemask. Joe Yearby rumbled for 12 yards shortly thereafter, and Miami was up 31-10 and had broken their backs. It was 38-10 at the end of the third quarter, and everyone headed for the exits. We left in the fourth quarter and watched the final whistle at the dive bar where we had partied the night before. 45-10. Total domination. We later made our way to the Lost Province pub again to watch the afternoon games before returning to the mountain house to watch the evening games.
All in all, Boone was a great college town. Kidd Brewer Stadium was a really beautiful stadium and a fun place to watch a game. I would definitely go back again sometime, without a doubt.
Anyone else go to this game? Share your experiences below. Go Canes!