By David Coulson
Executive Editor, College Sports Journal
MONTGOMERY, AL. — For most of the significant history of Appalachian State football in the past 24 years, one of the constants has been the presence of Scott Satterfield.
Whether it was a perfect regular season and 12-0 start in 1995 as the starting quarterback, three consecutive national championships from 2005-2007 as an assistant to College Football Hall of Fame coach Jerry Moore, watching teammate Dexter Coakley win back-to-back Buck Buchanan Awards, or coaching Armanti Edwards to consecutive Walter Payton Awards, Satterfield has been apart of things.
And when Appalachian State plays in its first Football Bowl Subdivision bowl game, the Camellia Bowl, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Montgomery, Alabama, it will be Satterfield leading the the Mountaineers into battle against Ohio University.
“This kind of validates our moving to FBS,” said Satterfield, who first came to ASU as a walk-on quarterback in 1991. “For us, it’s a big celebration. But at the end of the day, we’re all competitors.”
A victory on Saturday would also give Appalachian (10-2 overall, 7-1 in league) a Sun Belt Conference-record 11th victory, which would be only the eighth time in school history and the first since 2009 that the Mountaineers had reached that peak.
The 11 wins would also be the most by any team in its first season of bowl eligibility.
ASU is also trying to become the first team to win a bowl game in its first season of eligibility. The Mountaineers, who like Sun Belt rival Georgia Southern qualified for a bowl in their first season, are one of only four teams to make a bowl game so quickly.
Nevada lost the Las Vegas Bowl in 1992 and Marshall came up short in the Motor City Bowl in 1997. Georgia Southern plays in the GoDaddy Bowl on Dec. 23.
“We’ve had a particularly great season and we want to end it on a great note,” ASU center and offensive team captain Jesse Chapman said. “We’ve overcome a lot obstacles to get here and I can’t wait to play this game.”
Standing in the way are the Ohio Bobcats, coached by longtime Nebraska coach Frank Solich, an old friend of Satterfield’s mentor, Moore.
“Coach Solich has a little bit of an option background,” said Satterfield, remembering his days directing the App State’s version of the Nebraska I Formation option. “They don’t beat themselves. They make you beat them.”
Ohio (8-4, 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference) had an impressive win over ASU’s old Southern Conference rival Marshall (21-10) in September and finished up on a high note in November with a 26-21 victory against MAC divisional champion Northern Illinois (26-21).
The Bobcats ended the season on a three-game winning streak to snap a string of three losses in a row, including their 62-24 setback against MAC titleist Bowling Green.
Satterfield said the three losses came when Ohio was battered by injuries, particularly at the quarterback spot. But the Bobcats should be healthy after a three-week break.
“I’m impressed with their defense,” said Satterfield, noting that it reminds him of the Mountaineers during their era of All-Americans Marques Murrell and Jason Hunter as defense ends and Jerome Touchstone and Justin Woazeah at the cornerback spots. “They put a lot of pressure on teams with their defensive ends, rushing four down linemen and their cornerbacks are really good in coverage. They don’t have to blitz a lot.”
Ohio ranks 51st in points allowed (24.8 per game) and is 54th in both rushing and pass defense for a total of 49th in yards allowed (373.6).
On offense, the Bobcats are 75th in scoring (27.4), though their balanced attack has averaged 424.8 yards per contest, good for 47th in the nation.
Defense and the running game have been the key element of the Mountaineers’ success this season.
ASU ranks 13th nationally and was first in the Sun Belt in points allowed (18.3) and was 12th in total yards on defense (318).
“We just need to play hard and do our jobs,” said ASU defensive captain and defensive end Ronald Blair, who was named the Sun Belt defensive player of the year this week. “We don’t have to try and be super.”
Blair was particularly complementary of Ohio’s offensive line.
“They’ve got a great running game,” said Blair. “You can see on film that they are gritty.”
Of course, the Mountaineer defense watches a pretty good rushing attack of its own every day in practice.
Marcus Cox became the first Appalachian player to rush for 1,000 yards in his first three seasons and has 1,250 yards this season. In recent weeks, the junior has been complemented by true freshman Jalen Moore, who has 432 yards on the ground in his past three games.
That has helped take pressure off sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb, who has balanced the attack with 2,381 yards through the air this season.
One of Lamb’s favorite targets, senior Malachi Jones, is looking forward to another big offensive game on Saturday.
“We’re down there for a reason — to win App’s first bowl game,” said Jones. “That would be a great way to end my senior year.”