By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — There are several themes for Appalachian State as it prepares for Saturday’s final regular season football game with South Alabama at 7:30 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
There is the element of revenge as the Mountaineers (9-2, 6-1) play a Jaguar team that dismantled them 47-21 last season at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Then there is the faint hope of winning a share of the Sun Belt Conference in App State’s second year of competition in the league. That could be accomplished by a Mountaineer victory and Texas State upsetting league leader Arkansas State on Saturday in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
And finally, there is all that talk of bowl games.
Earlier this week, there were reports from unofficial sources, including ESPN.com, that App State — in its first year of eligibility — is headed to the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama on Dec. 19 — just two weeks away.
Other reports Friday said that ASU had already sent out information to its season ticket holders on Camellia Bowl packages.
“All our focus is on South Alabama,” Appalachian coach Scott Satterfield said Wednesday after practice. “We’re not talking about bowl games. We have not talked one bit about last year’s (South Alabama) game.”
The Camellia Bowl, which will start at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a Sun Belt team against a squad from the Mid-American Conference in the 25,000-seat Cramton Bowl — a stadium that has been renovated in recent years and has been the longtime home of Alabama State football.
The Camellia Bowl is one of five games scheduled for the first day of bowl activity.
Northern Illinois (8-4 overall, 6-2 in league) and Bowling Green (9-3, 7-1) are playing on Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit in the Mid-American championship game, with Toledo also in the running for a bowl appearance. The Toledo Rockets spent much of the season ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.
It is the third consecutive year that Northern Illinois and Bowling Green have met for the MAC title. Bowling Green won in 2013 (47-27), but Northern Illinois evened the score last year (51-17).
Satterfield spent the 2009 season as the quarterbacks coach at Toledo after an 11-year stint as one of Jerry Moore’s assistant coaches at ASU. Satterfield moved on to serve as Florida International’s offensive coordinator for two years before returning to the Mountaineers as the offensive coordinator and then succeeding Moore as head coach in 2013.
Another interesting side note is the fact that Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher is a graduate of Watauga High School and is a member of the Watauga County Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Camellia Bowl is in its second year, with Bowling Green scoring on a 78-yard touchdown pass with 64 seconds left to beat South Alabama, 33-28 in the inaugural game.
The official announcement of Appalachian’s bowl appearance will be made on Sunday.
Depending on how things shake out on Saturday, the Dec. 19 New Orleans Bowl — with first choice among Sun Belt teams — is expected to pick Arkansas State to go against Louisiana Tech, while the Dec. 23 Go Daddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is reportedly wanting to select Georgia Southern.
While Satterfield and his staff are not emphasizing revenge, the memory of last season’s blowout loss at home to South Alabama is still fresh in the minds of the Mountaineer players.
“I’m just looking forward to Saturday,” said sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb. “They came up here and waxed us (last year).”
But at the same time, Lamb said the team’s concentration is like it is every week.
“We don’t really care about who is out there,” Lamb said. “We feel we can beat anybody.”
South Alabama has some motivation in this game too, despite a disappointing 5-6 overall mark and its 3-4 record in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars could become bowl eligible with a victory over the Mountaineers.
USA has struggled defensively, ranking 116th in points allowed (37.5 per game) in the Football Bowl Subdivision, 108th in rushing yards given up (213.7) and 81st in total yardage (411.6).
Those are not good figures when facing an opponent like Appalachian that is sixth nationally in rushing (265.9), 26th in total offense (471.3) and 18th in points per contest (37.5).
ASU’s defense figures to give the Jaguars fits as well, ranking 12th in points allowed (17.5) and total defense (313.7).
App State senior defensive end Ronald Blair isn’t worried about last year’s performance impacting his squad on Saturday.
“That game was a long time ago,” said Blair. “That was when we were trying to find our identity.”
But at the same time, Blair said pride will play a factor for the Mountaineers.
“Anytime somebody beats you like they did last year, you want to get them back.”