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Satterfield, App State Make History

By Jim Johnson
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There can’t be a long list of people that have won a conference title as a player in the FCS and then led his alma mater to three straight as the head coach, at the FBS level.

Scott Satterfield is Appalachian State. He didn’t make App State, and he won’t break App State. The Mountaineers were a power before him, are with him, and will likely continue to be after he’s gone, whenever that time may come.

Nevertheless, Satterfield embodies both the ideals and the spirit of his school. He is the personification of his program. And now, he is a champion… again.

There can’t be a long list of people that have won a conference title as a player in the FCS and then led his alma mater to three straight as the head coach, at the FBS level.

“I’m extremely proud of these players,” Satterfield began. “We faced adversity just like any football team does, but these guys just continued to rally each week. I told them in the locker room, winning is hard. It’s hard to win championships, and these guys fight everyday to make it happen. All that hard work paid off today. They can’t say we shared this one. This one is ours, outright.”

It is true, Satterfield’s team avoided Arkansas State when they shared the league title in 2016, and missed both A-State and Troy a season ago, en route their second consecutive shared title. In 2018, he and his team left no doubt.

Louisiana’s early trip to Boone, back in October, resulted in a hard fought 27-17 win for the hometeam, but, of course, it’s hard to beat a good team twice.

“Hats off to Louisiana and the way they played. They’re coached well, they got better throughout the season, and they’re a tough team to play. We knew it was going to be a 60 minute game, and our guys kept fighting.” Satterfield continued, “We have a great group of guys that play for each other, and that’s why we’ve been able to have so much success over the past four seasons.”

The Ragin Cajuns’ moved the ball effectively out of the gates, putting together a nine play 55-yard drive, but were ultimately held to just a field goal. However, Darrynton Evans came right back with a monster counterpunch, nearly scoring on the ensuing kickoff. Marcus Williams punched it in for him a play later.

“I had a flashback,” Evans laughed. “I really thought it was going to go out of bounds, but then it took a weird bounce. The guys up front did a good job blocking, I saw a hole and just hit it.”

The rest of the first half was largely a defensive showcase. Nothing was doing through the air against a Louisiana secondary that played perhaps its best game of the season. They actually even moved the ball a little more efficiently than App did, but stingy red zone defense limited the Ragin’ Cajuns to another field goal. The drive finishing battle would prove to be of great import throughout the contest.

“I just have a lot of confidence in our defense,” Satterfield explained. “Even if they got a first down, I still always thought our defense would get a stop. I’ve never thought field goals beat you. We held them to four of them. When we were doing that, I felt like we had a great chance of beating them.”

Bear in mind, this was a Louisiana offense ranked in the national top ten in points per scoring opportunity. On the flipside, App did manage one cohesive scoring drive before the halfway mark. Rushing the ball all but one time, the Mountaineers capped off an eleven play drive with a 25-yard Zac Thomas score -- Thomas’ first of two long rushing scores on the day.

“The defensive end crashed, and I thought I could beat the guy covering the tight end. Phenomenal job blocking up front,” Thomas credited.

Louisiana finally found the end zone in the third quarter, which coupled with another field goal, whilst holding App to just a pair of field goals, saw the Ragin’ Cajuns enter the fourth quarter within striking distance, down 16-20.

Then, on the Cajuns’ first drive of the final frame, Tae Hayes came up with one of the plays of the game, intercepting Andre Nunez and returning it 32 yards, across midfield, to set up the aforementioned second Thomas touchdown that would eventually prove to be the nail in the coffin.

“I can’t even take the credit for it. Coach Brown made a good call, he knew what they were about to do. I just had to go out and execute. I tried to score with it. I tried my best with my boys, but I couldn’t do it,” he grinned.

At that point, a sense of inevitability started to kick in around The Rock. It was, in fact, just a matter of time before history was made, the clock hit zeroes, and App State had officially won the first ever Sun Belt Conference Championship Game, 30-19.

“We’ve had a lot of firsts here,” Satterfield recalled. “I’ve been a part of a lot of firsts during my time here, but I’ve never seen anything like that. They set a stage up on our field, and you get up there and look out, and it’s just App State all around you. That’s what it’s all about. When you start playing sports at a young age, you work to hoist the trophy up like that, in front of your home crowd.”

Only Scott Satterfield knows what his future holds, and even he may not be sure right now. Regardless, App State is the outright Sun Belt Champ, has a chance to get to eleven wins, in two weeks in New Orleans, for the first time in 2015, and will forever be the first team to win the inaugural SBC title game.

Sometimes bigger, richer, more powerful programs swoop in and take a coach. No one, however, can steal a moment. History was witnessed, memories made, and nothing will ever change that. Satterfield is App State, for now, and maybe for the future, but maybe not. Regardless, the machine he helped build will keep moving.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP