Florida’s Meyer had hand in Appalachian success

Jerry Moore was struggling at Appalachian State in 2003 and

concerned his job was in jeopardy when the football junkie kept

watching Utah pile up points late at night on Saturdays with this

spread offense perfected by Urban Meyer.

Moore, in his mid 60s and firmly entrenched with the I-formation

from his time working under Tom Osborne, decided to make a dramatic

change.

Seven years later, after three national championships, a

monumental upset of Michigan and six straight Southern Conference

titles, Moore’s Mountaineers (9-1) are ranked No. 2 in both

Football Championship Subdivision polls and an offensive

juggernaut.

Meyer will get a close look at Moore’s creation on Saturday when

his struggling Florida Gators (6-4) host the dangerous

Mountaineers.

”I’m proud of him,” Meyer said. ”He’s a heck of a football

coach.”

Moore and Meyer have become friends, but Moore chuckled this

week when he thought back to when he decided to embrace a foreign

offense of no-huddle, shotgun snaps, multiple receivers and mobile

quarterbacks.

”My whole background was I-formation. We were always under the

center,” Moore said. ”When I saw what they were doing, it was a

great combination for what I liked as far as running the ball and

throwing the ball.”

A FCS school with a much smaller budget than the big boys, Moore

didn’t have the money to travel to Salt Lake City to talk to Meyer.

He also was hesitant to ask him anyway.

”It wasn’t Urban so much early as his assistants. They would

share stuff with us,” Moore said. ”We didn’t think about asking

the head coach. He’s busy doing other stuff.”

Moore also went to West Virginia to talk to then-coach Rich

Rodriguez’s staff about the offense. After only modest success in

his first year using it in 2004 – 6-5 with no playoff berth and no

ensuing contract extension – Moore finally ran into Meyer at an

offseason banquet.

”I thought, ‘Moore and Meyer, I may be sitting next to

Urban,”’ Moore said. ”Next thing you know I walk in and there he

is.

”I said, ‘I know everybody asks you about (quarterback Alex)

Smith, but I want to know about your right guard. Urban kind of

smiled and I knew I may have hit a key note right there with

him.”

Meyer was soon on his way to Florida, a much easier place for

Moore and his staff to visit.

”When he went to Florida I said, ‘Oh man, this is perfect,”’

Moore said. ”I’ve been down there the three previous years. I

think our relationship has grown pretty significantly. We were

together at the ESPY awards.”

And soon Moore’s offense starting clicking in ways he never

could have imagined.

Athletic quarterback Richie Williams led the Mountaineers to

their first national title in 2005, just as Armanti Edwards chose

to attend Appalachian because of the new offense.

Edwards would soon lead the Mountaineers to two more national

titles and break numerous records. With Edwards now playing for the

Carolina Panthers, the undersized DeAndre Presley has 2,793 yards

of total offense this season and threw 14 touchdown passes before

his first interception.

Appalachian State averages 37 points a game, fourth-best in the

FCS.

”It’s fun, especially when you have the ability to run,”

Presley said of the spread. ”It’s big, really, really big, because

a defense can’t key on just one person.”

Florida, has had its own success with the same offense that

includes tight end sets, winning national titles in 2006 and ’08

with the help of Tim Tebow. The big difference is Appalachian

State’s offensive line is much smaller.

”In the SEC, they couldn’t play a 265- or 270-pound guard. And

we love them,” Moore said. ”They’re fast, they’re quick kids and

they’re able to do what we want to do. The biggest test, obviously,

was Michigan. We matched up good and we did some nice things

against Michigan that had the big linemen.”

Ah, Michigan. The stunning, 34-32 win over the fifth-ranked

Wolverines in 2007 forever changed this mountain campus and Moore’s

life. It soon helped upend Michigan, too, with a coaching change

that saw Rodriguez leave West Virginia to run the same spread

offense with the Wolverines.

Now Moore and Meyer meet for the first time on the field. But

while the Mountaineers are among the favorites to win another FCS

national title, Meyer’s Gators are struggling. They’ve lost three

in a row at home amid QB woes as offensive coordinator Steve

Addazio has been the target of criticism.

For the moment it’s Moore, now 71 with two replacement knees,

who is considered a go-to guy for all things spread offense after

transforming his program thanks to his late-night TV watching of

Meyer in Utah.

”He’s been very, very helpful and very open,” Moore said.

”We’re more like them than anybody else.”

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to

this report.