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Scott Satterfield at Appalachian State: A Statistical Analysis

The new Cardinal coach put up some gaudy numbers at his last gig.

Dollar General Bowl - Appalachian State v Toledo
“Hey ma, check out this sweet trophy”
Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

With the Cards making it official today in bringing on board new Head Football Coach Scott Satterfield what a great time to take a high level approach at how the Appalachian State teams he’s lead the last few seasons have performed statistically on a national level, a conference level, and in direct comparison to our own Cardinal squad.

Before we get too deep into the muck there are a few items to take note of so we can all agree we’re on the same page.

  • I realize that Appalachian State is not playing in the ACC or against Power 5 opponents weekly and therefore some of the direct comparisons may not be fair to UofL. The caveat in my mind though is that Appalachian State is also not a Power 5 school and therefore, theoretically, should not have any substantial advantage over their weekly opponents. If that talent level can score/defend against a similar talent level using Satterfield’s offensive approach and defensive approach one would hope it could translate to talent at a Power 5 level.
  • Statistical comparisons begin in 2014 when Appalachian State made the jump to FBS football. That also just so happens to be Year 1 of the BP 2.0 era.
  • If you hate charts/graphs I feel sorry for your soul, but I have condensed the information into a brief summary at the bottom of the post just for you. Try not to stare the charts directly in the eye as you quickly scroll past them, they have feelings too.

I’ll let my man Keith Wynne break down the Appalachian State offense/defense in more detail but from 30,000 feet let’s see what Satterfield is putting out there on a weekly basis…

When it comes to offensive production one would assume Louisville, under Bobby Petrino and Lamar Jackson, would likely dominate Appalachian State in total offense. While the Cards experienced a “Lamar Leap” so to speak in 2016 and 2017 the Mountaineers were a bit more consistent in their production averaging around 445 yards per game the last five seasons compared to UofL’s 448. A category I anticipated UofL would dominate was nearly identical.

When it comes to putting points on the board the two teams were also very similar on average but Appalachian state was once again more consistent in their production. Over the past five season the Cards averaged 32.06pts/g and the Mountaineers a smidge higher at 34.36pts/g.

While a bit surprising to me, the Cards have maintained a fairly balanced attack the last five years trending more towards the passing attack the last couple seasons. Last year, for example, the Cards only ran the ball 9 more times than they passed compared to 2014 when there was an 83 play differential.

In comparison, Satterfield loves to run the football. All five years Appalachian State has been right at or over 60% run. Some of it is because they have had talent in the backfield but the majority of it, in my opinion, is play calling (i.e expect that ratio to travel to The Ville). All five seasons the Mountaineers have been FBS they have had a player in the Top 3 in rushing in the Sun Belt conference, but fear not ‘big play’ lovers. Appalachian State has also been number one or number two in the Sun Belt the last two seasons in plays over 50 yards, 60 yards, 70 yards, and 80 yards. Load the box on them and prepare to get burnt.

Of course, we know firsthand that you can’t have a solid run game without a good offensive line, and Appalachian State has been churning out a good O-line for years. Co-Offensive Coordinator Shawn Clark (a former UofL grad assistant back in 01-02) joined the program in 2016 and has produced O-line play that not only resonates on a conference level but a national level as well. In 2017 Appalachian State only allowed 8 sacks all season, good enough for 2nd nationally, and the other two years he’s been there (2016, 2018) they finished in the Top 25 in that same category. The Cards on the other hand had a great 2017 but reverted back to their old ways this season.

On the other side of the ball the Appalachian State defense has impressed me in what I’ve seen so far. Looking at the stats you can see that the defense has hovered around that 325 yd/g mark until this year when they fielded a Top 6 defense nationally only allowing 279.3yd/g. The Cards defense…is not trending in the right direction.

Mirroring the total yardage stat above Appalachian State locked teams up this year on the scoreboard and once again finished the season 6th in the country, only giving up 15.7pt/g. In fact, since 2015 Appalachian State’s scoring differential has widened each year from what the Cards are posting on average.

Two big categories for me that should theoretically translate from a lower school to a Power 5 school are turnovers and penalties. Both are currently, and have been in the past, big issues for UofL. Bringing in a staff that places importance on forcing turnovers and playing disciplined football is essential to me in turning things around.

Let’s look at turnovers first. Appalachian State had a slight dip in 2018 but had been trending up for four straight years. The big thing to me is four straight seasons on the positive side of the turnover battle. Bill Connelly has pointed out that teams that win the turnover battle each week win 73% of the time. It’s important, and the TO margin locally has been rough up until 2018…when they completely pee’d the bed (-12).

The second category of note, which infuriates me to no end, is penalties. I get that mistakes happen, and there are even such things as good penalties (PI to stop a TD, horse collar to stop a long run, etc) but often UofL shoots themselves in the foot with undisciplined play. When making the comparison between the two schools the teams appeared to swap bodies in 2017 but looking at the data as a whole the Mountaineers averaged ten less penalties per season. It doesn’t take a keen eye to see that the trends (excluding 2017) are heading in opposite directions. If Satterfield can promise me 75 penalties or less in 2019, sign me up yesterday.


‘I Hate Charts’ People

  • App State has produced a similar yards/g and pts/g total as UofL over the last five seasons…which includes the crazy numbers from Lamar Jackson in 2016 and 2017.
  • Satterfield relies heavily on the run, sitting right at or going beyond the 60% barrier in the run/pass split the last five seasons.
  • App State O-Line has allowed fewer than 20 sacks every year since joining the FBS, including the second lowest ‘sacks allowed’ total in the nation (8) in 2017.
  • The App State defense has performed consistently since joining the FBS and on average has allowed over 40yds less per game than UofL.
  • The App State defense has not allowed over 21pts/g on average since 2014, year one in the FBS.
  • App State has finished on the positive side of the turnover margin four straight seasons, peaking at +12 in 2017.

I’ll bring some more detailed analysis as the weeks go on but hopefully this satisfies your initial statistical cravings. As we see new assistant coaches hired and coordinators named we can get a better feel for what the offense and defense will look like but I don’t expect wholesale changes on either side of the ball in terms of philosophy.

Nobody knows how these numbers above will translate into the ACC or to the players the Cards currently have on their roster but to me it’s a good sign that we’re at least starting in a positive place in many of these areas moving forward.

Go Cards.