By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — Of all of the football road trips that Appalachian State has made in the 23 seasons that this writer has been covering the Mountaineers, one excursion stands out for all of the wrong reasons.
The 2004 season-opening adventure to Laramie, Wyoming was one that Mountaineer coach Scott Satterfield would like to forget. When asked what he remembered, Satterfield said “A lot of bad things.”
It was the first game of App State’s transition from the Nebraska I Formation option offense to the spread and on the first play from scrimmage, a pass from quarterback Riche Williams to DaVon Fowlkes bounced off the All-American receiver and was intercepted.
Late it the first quarter, a huge thunderstorm engulfed 7,200-foot-elevation War Memorial Stadium, causing nearly an hour’s delay in the game as lightning bolts struck around the area.
The Mountaineers committed five turnovers and fell behind 41-0 to the Joe Glenn-coached Cowboys at halftime, ultimately losing 53-7 in a contest that took some five hours to play from opening kickoff to final gun.
“It was not a good day,” said Satterfield, who was calling plays for the first time that day as the ASU quarterback coach. “We came back out and continued to get beat down. It was just a bad day.”
On the trip home, it was determined that the plane carrying the Mountaineers was overloaded. Fuel had to be siphoned from the tanks for the aircraft to even take off and the plane had to stop in North Platte, Nebraska to take on more fuel for the rest of the trip back to North Carolina.
Now 11 years later, Appalachian State hopes to gain some redemption as it hosts Wyoming at Kidd Brewer Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for homecoming.
It will mark the first time since the Southern Conference moved to what became the Football Championship Subdivision in 1982 that a Football Bowl Subdivision team has played a non-conference game at the Rock.
The contest will also feature teams heading in entirely different directions.
Appalachian (2-1) is coming off its surprising 49-0 shellacking of Old Dominion last Saturday on the road — the first time that high-powered ODU had ever been shutout at home. The Mountaineers piled up 501 yards of total offense, while limiting the Monarchs to 175 yards, barely half of its season average.
App State has won eight of its past nine games over two seasons, with the only blemish being to Clemson, the 12th-ranked team in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.
Wyoming, meanwhile, is feeling the growing pains of playing an inexperienced squad and has lost its first four games, including its season opener at home to FCS-member North Dakota by a 24-13 score.
The Cowboys haven’t won a game since a 45-17 victory last season at Fresno State, with their losing streak reaching seven in a row. UW has dropped 11 of its past 12 games and followed up the loss to North Dakota with defeats to Eastern Michigan (48-29), Washington State (31-14) and New Mexico (38-28).
Wyoming has just eight seniors on their roster and have lost 10 percent of their 2014 roster after going 4-8 in Craig Bohl’s first season as coach.
“I think when you have a culture that’s a 180-degree difference, you’re going to have much more of an exodus of players,” Bohl recently told the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune. “If that culture’s similar, players seem to fit in better. The change in the roster did not surprise us. That comes with the territory. We knew that.”
Bohl came to Wyoming after guiding North Dakota State to three consecutive national championships, tying the record established by former ASU coach Jerry Moore from 2005-2007.
Like Moore, Bohl is a member of the Tom Osborne-Nebraska coaching tree and is a good friend of the ex-Mountaineer, College-Football-Hall-of-Fame coach.
“We have a ton of respect for what that staff did at North Dakota State,” said Satterfield. “They are physical and they play hard. A team coached by Coach Bohl is going to play that way.”
The Cowboys do possess a pair of playmakers on offense with Indiana transfer quarterback Cam Coffman and wide receiver Tanner Gentry. Wyoming also managed to rush for 430 yards on 58 carries in its loss at home to Eastern Michigan and ranks seventh in FBS in rushing.
“They are trying to do the same things that they did at North Dakota State,” said App State defensive end Ronald Blair, who has been one of the stars for the Mountaineers this season in two shutouts. “They want to be physical and aggressive.”
With heavy rain in the forecast for Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin, both teams figure to focus on their ground games.
“We play well when its bad weather, take last weekend at ODU,” Satterfield said. “In that approach, you have to win the trenches and we feel good about our offensive line and our defensive line. You have to be more conservative in games like that and take your chances when you need to.”
If Appalachian chooses to throw, the Mountaineers will be fortified by the return of several key receivers. Simms McElfresh is listed as a probable starter after missing action following an injury at Clemson and Montez McGuire returns after serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
Coming off his worst career performance at Clemson, with three interceptions, ASU quarterback Taylor Lamb threw a personal-best, four touchdown passes against Old Dominion and passed for 187 yards as he completed 11-of-15 attempts.
Marcus Cox turned in another stellar performance with 23 carries for 107 yards rushing against the Monarchs.
“When we are executing on offense, it’s all because of the play of the offensive line,” said Cox.