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Beyond the Scoreboard: ASU football the top Group of Five program in the county

FILE -- Beyond the Scoreboard: ASU football the top Group of Five program in the count (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

There were plenty of doubters (this writer included), lots of skeptics who thought Appalachian State football was reaching too far when it announced several years ago the plan to leave the comforts of FCS play to advance to the unknown of FBS competition.

But in four years of grand success, including three straight bowl wins and back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships, the Mountaineers have done much more than proven they belong.

In just 51 games the program has established itself as the best Group of Five football team in the country.

After a very shaky start to the conversion from Southern Conference and FCS powerhouse to FBS play, coach Scott Satterfield (41-22 in five years) has produced a consistent winner that has won 36 of its last 45 games over three-plus seasons, the best record of any Group of Five school.

A 34-0 whitewash of Toledo Saturday night in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala., capped another great year for Apps football.

Following up seasons of 11-2 and 10-3, the Mountaineers finished 9-4 and went 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference for a third straight year.

Since joining the league in 2014, Appy State is 27-5 in Sun Belt play.

That 36-9 mark over 45 games in the sixth best mark in the country, and the teams head of App State are the best the Power Five conferences have – Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Against Group of Five schools the past four years, the Mountaineers are 36-6.

Such dominance is not a new concept for long-time fans, who embrace the glory days under veteran coach Jerry Moore. The Mountaineers made 20 FCS playoff appearances and won 12 SoCon titles from 1986-2012, including three straight FCS national titles (2005-07).

And even as the 2007 win at No. 4 Michigan that ranks among the biggest upsets in the history of college football provided further proof of the program’s place as the top FCS football team in the country, many of the App State faithful wanted more.

A belief that the program could do more and reach higher resulted in the decision to move up to the FBS level, a goal realized when the Sun Bowl proffered an invitation to join.

But there were changes going on in Boone. Moore at age 73 was forced out following the 2012 season, and the 2013 team going through a lame-duck season in the SoCon in Satterfield’s first year struggled to a 4-8 mark.

And when the initial season of FCS play began with a 1-5 mark, there were many howls of “told you so!” to a program that featured a struggling coach with a 5-13 record midway through his second season.

But the Mountaineers found themselves in time to win six straight Sun Belt games and salvage a 7-5 mark in 2014.

And since then the team is 30-9 with the championships and bowl wins, and the losses have come against some of the best FBS programs in the country – including Clemson and Georgia.

“We’ve got a real good team here,” said Satterfield. “We’ve won the Sun Belt, and now we’ve won three bowl championships. It’s unbelievable.”

As for the future, the Mountaineers lose 11 seniors who led the team’s rise to the top of the Group of Five structure.

And it’s very likely Satterfield will be fielding offers from Power Five schools looking to rebuild their football programs.

But for now the Mountaineers are back on a familiar perch, as the best football program in the country in their division.

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