App State Football Ready For ‘Business’ Trip To Montgomery & Camellia Bowl

Published Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 12:02 pm

By David Coulson

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State finally found out the who, what, where, when and why of qualifying for its first Football Bowl Subdivision on Sunday afternoon.

Now its on to the how as the Mountaineers face Ohio University in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Montgomery, Alabama at the Crampton Bowl.

Ohio finished second in its division in the Mid-American Conference, going 8-4 overall and 6-2 in league with key wins over Marshall and Northern Illinois.

In the minds of many players and coaches, bowl games are like exhibitions that reward teams for great, or sometimes, mediocre seasons.

But after storming through the 2015 campaign with a 10-2 record and finishing second in the Sun Belt Conference, Appalachian is looking at its first bowl excursion is all about business.

“This is a business trip,” said senior defensive end Ronald Blair, who has survived the transition from the Football Championship Subdivision, a losing season and two years of no postseason eligibility to finally reach his dream of playing his final college game in a bowl. “With all of the things we’ve been through as a team, it was kind of surreal. We get to relieve some of our hunger.”

Blair, one of the final players in the program to enter the ASU program as one of College Football Hall of Fame coach Jerry Moore’s recruits, has a proper understanding of what his final college game will mean.

“History is a big part of this program,” said Blair. “We’re playing this game for the guys who have gone before us.”

And while the Mountaineers expect to have some fun during the next two weeks, they are more worried about coming back from Montgomery with an 11th victory.

“We want to carry momentum into next season,” said sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb, who talked about experiencing the pain of a 4-8 record during his redshirt season as a freshman. “It’s kind of looking to the future for this team.”

And there is another caveat.

“Being 11-2 sounds better than 10-3,” Lamb said. “It should be fun, but it is also business.”

Defensive back Tae Hayes, the only true freshman in Appalachian’s starting lineup, has already been enjoying the ride of the Mountaineers’ memorable year.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting this,” said Hayes, who ended Saturday’s game with a pass breakup to preserve ASU’s 34-27 victory at South Alabama. “I honestly didn’t know we were going to be this good.”

Hayes, who is from Alabama, had a large group of fans at Saturday’s game in Mobile and expects as many as 30, or 40 supporters to be in Montgomery for the bowl game.

Few people in the current program know the historical side of App State football as well as current coach Scott Satterfield. And he was beaming as much as his players at Sunday’s press conference.

“With 10 wins in their first season of bowl eligibility, our coaches and student-athletes are very deserving of this honor and for the opportunity to be showcased on a national stage,” Satterfield said. “I’m excited for our whole University community — students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans — to be able to share in this historic event.”

Satterfield spent the 2009 season as the quarterbacks coach at Toledo of the MAC, but didn’t play against Ohio. But there is a historical connection between Appalachian and Ohio.

The Bobcats are coached by Frank Solich, who built a close relationship with Moore when Moore was Nebraska’s offensive coordinator under Tom Osborne and Solich was a well-regarded high school coach in the Cornhusker state.

Solich later replaced Osborne when the hall-of-fame coach retired and spent six seasons as the head coach of his alma mater. Solich has been at Ohio since 2005 after 25 years coaching at Nebraska in various capacities.

“I’ve just kind of seen (Ohio) from afar,” said Satterfield. “This is a hard-nosed, blue-collar program.”

Solich is 4-7 in his previous bowl appearances at Nebraska and Ohio, his Bobcats are coming off a strong year in the MAC.

“The Mid-American Conference was perhaps the deepest Group of Five conference in the nation this season and we have a lot of respect for what Ohio has been able to accomplish,” Satterfield added. “It will be a great challenge for our team to see how we match up against the Bobcats.”

Besides the Moore-Solich connection, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher is a graduate of Watauga High School and is a member of the Watauga County Athletic Hall of Fame and grew up watching football games at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

Also pleased with the finalization of App State’s historic bowl appearance was Mountaineer athletic director Doug Gillen.

“It’s with great pride that we accept the invitation to participate in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl,” Gillen said. “With 10 wins in their first season of bowl eligibility, our coaches and student-athletes are very deserving of this honor and for the opportunity to be showcased on a national stage.”

But despite all of the excitement, the emphasis on Sunday was about the business side of the event.

“There is a lot riding on this game (for Appalachian),” Satterfield said. “We want to finish right.”

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