App State, ranked for the first time, not satisfied

The Mountaineers, No. 25 in the AP college football poll, travel to Georgia State for a Thursday night matchup for control in the Sun Belt Conference

Appalachian State redshirt sophomore quarterback Zac Thomas has guided the Mountaineers to 44.8 points per game, good for fifth in all of FBS in his first year as a starter. (Tim Cowie Photography / courtesy Appalachian State)

The Appalachian State football team may have reached new heights by earning its first national ranking as an FBS program.

But that doesn’t mean the Mountaineers are ready to stop climbing.

“We talk about it all the time,” said coach Scott Satterfield, whose team is No. 25 in this week’s Associated Press poll after Saturday’s 27-17 win against Louisiana-Lafayette. “What we’ve done in the past has nothing to do with right now.

“Every day we’re refocused on having the best day we can have. That’s why we’ve been successful. Anytime you relish in what you’ve done, you’re not going to do anything in the future.”

Even though Satterfield has already turned his attention to the Mountaineers’ next game, which is coming up quickly on Thursday at Georgia Southern, the significance of what they’ve accomplished isn’t lost on him.

The national ranking is just another in a growing list of firsts for App State since the program made the transition from FCS power to FBS newcomer three-plus seasons ago.

In that short time, the Mountaineers have won their first Sun Belt Conference championship, became the first conference team to win 11 games in a season, hosted a Power 5 opponent for the first time at Kidd Brewer Stadium and became the first team in college football history to win bowl games in each of its first three seasons of eligibility.

This year’s team began gaining national attention on opening day by taking Penn State to overtime before dropping a close decision. Since then, the Mountaineers have won five straight while outscoring their opponents 231-49 along the way.

“Obviously, it’s great recognition for the work we’ve been doing here,” Satterfield said of the national ranking. “I’m really happy for our school, our alumni and all the people that have helped make this happen. To be recognized like this is pretty awesome.

“Having said that, it doesn’t win you any football games. It’s not going to beat Georgia Southern. We told our team that it’s great recognition and they’re to be commended for that, but it has nothing to do with our mission this week. And that is to win a football game.”

Thursday’s trip to Statesboro, Ga., promises to be the most challenging thus far for the Mountaineers since their trip to Penn State.

Georgia Southern is a familiar rival, dating back to the days when both schools were dominating the small college ranks. Although the Eagles had a more difficult time transitioning from FCS than App State, they’re back on the winning track in the first full season of Chad Lunsford’s tenure as head coach.

At 6-1 overall (3-0 Sun Belt), Georgia Southern is potentially the Mountaineers’ biggest roadblock in their quest to win their division title and host the conference championship game on Dec. 1.

As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, Satterfield and his team will have less time than usual to prepare because of the midweek scheduling.

“It’s just compressed everything into a short week for us, having to go down to Statesboro on Wednesday and play Georgia Southern on Thursday night,” Satterfield said. “It’s been very busy since the end of that (Louisiana-Lafayette) game.”

If there’s one thing the Mountaineers have going for them, it’s that they’ve already played one midweek game on the road this season, having beaten Arkansas State on a Tuesday night.

They’ve also shown that they can maintain their focus and poise in the face of adversity after losing leading rusher Jalin Moore to a season-ending injury.

Even without Moore, who rushed for 3,570 yards and 33 touchdowns in his career, App State’s powerful offense hasn’t missed a beat. His replacement has rushed for 115 or more yards in each of the past two games and is averaging better than seven yards per carry.

“It goes back to recruiting and continuing to recruit high-level talent every year,” Satterfield said. “Darrynton Evans had a great game this past game.

“We try to play a lot of different players at a lot of positions in case something happens throughout the season, which it will. The next guy in there needs to be able to make plays, and we have confidence in our guys to do that.”