By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — Scott Satterfield was reflective of a 19-year Mountaineer career that started as a freshman quarterback in 1991 as he watched Appalachian State open football practice Aug. 4 with high hopes for the 2015 season.
Now in its second year as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team, with a full compliment of 85 scholarship players and having completed a two-year, NCAA-mandated transition period from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), App State has been picked by most national football observers to challenge for the Sun Belt Conference and is eligible for the first time to compete for a berth in a Division I postseason bowl game.
But while the goals may be different for 2015, winning and losing will come down to some of the same basics that were present when the third-year head coach was in his first season as a player with the Mountaineers.
“When we run the football well, we are pretty hard to beat, said Satterfield. “We are going to try and stick to that formula.”
Struggling to a 1-5 start last season after compiling a 4-8 record in Satterfield’s first season replacing the legendary Jerry Moore in 2013, Appalachian was at a crossroads when it faced Troy on the road on Oct. 18.
But a 53-14 victory was like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Mountaineers and they burned their way to a six-game winning streak to finish a 7-5 campaign.
Appalachian State’s last loss was a wild, 55-48 setback to old FCS rival Liberty in overtime on Oct. 11.
ASU finished in third place at 6-2 in its initial Sun Belt campaign.
Improved line play on both sides of the ball and the emergence of running backs Marcus Cox (1,145 yards, 19 TDs rushing) and Terrence Upshaw (573 yards, four TDs on the ground) fueled that success and built confidence for 2015 as App State heads into a pivotal season.
With 44 lettermen and 22 starters returning and a host of newcomers waiting to make their marks, the Mountaineers boast their most experienced squad in decades.
“We’ve been training for (the 2015 season) since last season ended,” said defensive end Thomas Bronson, one of 19 seniors on the squad. “We got a taste of winning ballgames last season and we built a lot of confidence from that.”
With the Sun Belt securing bowl tie-ins with four postseason games, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, AL., the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, AL. and the new Cure Bowl in Orlando, FL., the Mountaineers have an excellent shot of being among the 84 FBS schools invited to one of 42 bowl games (the College Football Playoff series will culminate with one more game to crown a national champion for FBS in Glendale, AZ).
While winning the Sun Belt would secure an automatic bowl bid, the Mountaineers will need to win at least six games in their 12-game regular season and continue to show strong home and road attendance figures to maximize their hopes of earning one of those other bowl slots.
“The unknown is scary,” Satterfield admitted. “But as long as we’re unselfish, we will be a good team.”
App State opens the season against FCS opponent Howard on Sept. 5 and has additional home games against Wyoming (Oct. 3), longtime rival Georgia Southern (Oct. 22), Troy (Oct. 31), Arkansas State (Nov. 5) and Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 28).
The Mountaineers will be on the road at Clemson (Sept. 12), Old Dominion (Sept. 26), Georgia State (Oct. 10), Louisiana-Monroe (Oct. 17), Idaho (Nov. 14) and South Alabama (Dec. 5).