App State preps for Tuesday game

The Mountaineers will play at Arkansas State in a matchup of Sun Belt powers

Appalachian State's offense — led by sophomore quarterback Zac Thomas and complemented by running back Darrynton Evans, left — ranks third in FBS in scoring at 51.8 points per game. (Walt Unks / The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield, like every other college football coach in America, would prefer to play all his team’s games on Saturdays.

But that’s not possible anymore, especially when you play in a non-Power 5 conference looking for creative ways to gain some national exposure.

So instead of playing their next game on a Saturday — or even the semi-traditional Thursday or Friday nights — Satterfield will take his Mountaineers to Jonesboro, Ark., next Tuesday for a rare midweek matchup against Sun Belt Conference rival Arkansas State.

The game will be televised in prime time by ESPN2.

“We don’t have any say on when the games are going to get played,” Satterfield said Monday on the conference’s weekly coaches teleconference. “It’s through the conference office. They pretty much tell you when you’re going to play. The league office brings down the schedule and all we can do is go off of that.”

The odd scheduling is a product of a contractual agreement that gives ESPN exclusive access to Sun Belt football games.

Most of that content is offered to viewers via the network’s digital platform. In an effort to increase viewership, some of the games that are selected to be shown on traditional broadcast television are played on Tuesdays or Wednesdays — nights on which no other football is on.

“We regularly work with our league partners on ways to expand the distribution of content across our various platforms,” ESPN programming director Brent Colborne told Sports Pro Media. “The incremental events added from the expansion with the Sun Belt is a great complement to our current long-term agreement with the conference.”

That eight-year deal, signed in June, will increase the amount of money received by each league school from the reported $100,000 per school was getting under the previous contract.

While the increased revenue will undoubtedly benefit App State’s bottom line, it won’t do anything to help Satterfield prepare his team for what could potentially be a Sun Belt Championship Game preview.

“It’s very odd to be playing midweek, particularly on a Tuesday like this,” the veteran coach said. “You’re not playing (this) Saturday, so basically you just go out six days ahead and do a normal type game week, which will (start) on Wednesday. That will be like Sunday for us and we’ll go through our normal periods.”

The Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0) beat South Alabama 52-7 in their Sun Belt opener last weekend. They won’t play on either of the next two Saturdays in order to allow them to get back into a normal routine following the game at Arkansas State on Tuesday.

“It comes at a unique time for us, but you basically have a bye both before and after, really,” Satterfield said. “It really gives you a little bit of time off. So we get a couple of extra days right now, then you get a few days on the back half of it.

“It’s not traditional. We just try to take this little bit of time we have to maybe heal up some bruises and go forward.”

Tuesday’s game will be a showdown between the teams picked to win their respective divisions in the Sun Belt’s preseason poll.

While Arkansas State (3-2, 0-1) has already suffered a stumble, losing 28-20 last week to conference foe Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers are off to a fast start. They’ve won three straight since losing in overtime to Penn State over Labor Day weekend and rank third nationally — behind only Alabama and Houston — with an average of 51.8 points per game.

That productivity has been something of a revelation, considering that the team lost record-setting four-year starting quarterback Taylor Lamb to graduation after last season.

As good as Lamb was, his replacement Zac Thomas has been even better. He’s completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 896 yards and nine touchdowns.

“Zac’s played well throughout the first four games,” Satterfield said. “Our receiving corps has played well, our backs, our offensive line. I mean, all positions have had a good season so far. We feel like we can continue to get better, and that’s what we should be able to do heading through conference play.”

Unorthodox schedule and all.

“Later down the season we play a Saturday and then a Thursday game and get a five-day turnaround,” Satterfield said. “It is some odd scheduling, but you just have to make the best of it.”