December 15, 2015

The signal that Appalachian State was a program on the rise seemed more like a shot heard 'round the world in the greatest upset in the history of college football.

It took seven years for the Mountaineers to move up to the FBS following their stunning victory over Michigan in 2007, and the culmination of that difficult transition has finally come.

After sacrificing two years of postseason football to become eligible, Appalachian State is ready to soak in the experience of its first FBS bowl game when it faces Ohio in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saturday.

"I told our guys in our meeting that this is a reward," said coach Scott Satterfield, a former Mountaineers quarterback who was QBs coach in 2007. "A reward for a great season. We're gonna have fun. We're gonna enjoy it."

The Mountaineers had won two consecutive FCS championships when they marched into the Big House on Sept. 1, 2007, and were hardly the cupcake the fifth-ranked Wolverines and their nearly 110,000 fans in attendance were expecting in a shocking 34-32 victory.

They went on to a third straight FCS crown that year and remained in the Southern Conference until electing to perform on a bigger stage in 2013. However, they had to forego playoff eligibility in their final FCS season that year and also miss out on a bowl bid after their 2014 Sun Belt debut ended with a 7-5 record.

With a return to postseason play foremost in their minds, the Mountaineers had an outstanding season with a 10-2 record and were second to Arkansas State with a 7-1 mark in the Sun Belt. Appalachian State's losses came against top-ranked Clemson on Sept. 12 and the Red Wolves, who went 8-0 in the conference.

"We're only the second team in Sun Belt history to win 10 in the regular season, and this has been our first year where we're a full-fledged FBS member and been bowl-eligible," said Satterfield. "It's hard to win 10 games at the FBS level."

While Satterfield is excited about his first bowl opportunity, it's nothing new to Ohio's Frank Solich, who will be making his 12th as a head coach when he leads his team into Montgomery's historic Cramton Bowl.

The Bobcats opened 5-1 before a three-game skid put their bowl chances in jeopardy, but they won their final three and closed with a 26-21 victory over a Northern Illinois team that has won three of the last five Mid-American Conference titles.

"We started off very, very good and we showed the potential as to what we could be all about," Solich said. "We hit some rough spots in the middle of the season ... but our players worked their way out of it. I'm so proud of how they finished up the season."

Satterfield should also be proud of how his players ended the regular season following a 40-27 loss to Arkansas State on Nov. 5 that wound up determining the conference title.

The Mountaineers also closed with three straight victories and got a season-best rushing performance out of Marcus Cox in a closing 34-27 win at South Alabama on Dec. 5.

Cox, who ran for 192 yards, anchored the rushing attack with 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns. Jalin Moore (635 yards, 5 TDs), Terrence Upshaw (434, 3) and quarterback Taylor Lamb (385, 4) were also in that mix.

The Mountaineers attempted 556 running plays compared to 271 passes, so the Bobcats can expect a challenge on the ground after allowing 157.0 yards per game.

Defensive back Ian Wells was the only Bobcat named to the all-MAC squad with a second-team honor and will look to keep the Mountaineers' air game in check if his teammates manage to stuff the run. Ohio has allowed 216.6 passing yards per game.

Although Appalachian State didn't lean heavily on the pass, Lamb was reliable with 2,263 yards and a conference-best 29 touchdowns with eight interceptions - the Sun Belt's best TD-to-INT ratio at 3.63. He was also eighth in the FBS with a 166.1 rating.

Lamb relied the most on receivers Shaedon Meadors, Malachi Jones and Simms McElfresh, who combined for 1,296 yards and 12 touchdowns. Barrett Burns is primarily a blocking tight end but still tied McElfresh for the team lead with six TD receptions.

Ohio's Darius Vick had 1,807 yards with 10 TDs and six picks and needs to keep an eye on lineman Ronald Blair, who won Sun Belt defensive player of the year for his 67 tackles - 18 for loss - with 7 1/2 sacks and an interception he returned for a TD.

Sebastian Smith (62 catches, 754 yards, 7 TDs) and Jordan Reid (45, 616, 5) did most of the damage when the Bobcats chose to air it out.

Ohio, however, also relied more on the run behind A.J. Ouellette and Daz'Mond Patterson, who combined for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns, but Appalachian State was second in the Sun Belt and 28th out of 128 FBS teams with 133.6 rushing yards allowed per game.

"It's gonna be a challenge. Appy State is an outstanding football team," said Solich, who has been at Ohio since 2005 and has a 2-4 bowl record in that time.

This contest marks the first meeting between these programs.

You May Like