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As Mark Ivey and App State players take ownership of the football team, they focus on the goal
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As Mark Ivey and App State players take ownership of the football team, they focus on the goal

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BOONE — Tuesday could have been deflating for the Appalachian State football team.

The players found out in an early-morning meeting that Coach Scott Satterfield had accepted the same position at Louisville. He boarded a plane soon after, leaving the 10-2 Sun Belt champions with something to cope with.

Later that afternoon, Athletics Director Doug Gillin named assistant coach Mark Ivey as the interim head coach. Both spoke to the team, and when they finished, Mountaineers nose tackle MyQuon Stout asked for the floor. His main point: Remember the reason why you’ve put forth this effort so far.

“I kind of pretty much told the team no matter what happens, the people in this room, this is who we work hard for,” Stout said. “Yeah, the coaches are going to call the call, but I go out there and run the play so hard because Okon Godwin, Elijah Diarrassouba (both fellow defensive lineman — my brothers that at the end of the day that’s the people that I work hard for and have worked so hard for all four to five years with.”

“So nothing really changes, just staying positive at this point.”

Thursday’s open practice featured players working back into routines while dealing with slight differences. Defensive coordinator Bryan Brown and co-offensive coordinator Frank Ponce were absent, as well as director of strength and conditioning Mike Sirignano. All are expected to join Satterfield in Louisville.

Ivey, the defensive line coach, bounced around the position groups and different parts of practice. Appalachian will take on Middle Tennessee State in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 15, and he’s trying to become as familiar with the offense as possible. It’s been a compelling role for him.

“It’s great to be able to see different aspects,” Ivey said. “I saw those 20 guys (defensive linemen) working hard every day, and it’s been neat to walk around the last two days because we’ve got a lot of guys that are working hard. We got some special kids, as I get to see that I realize why we’ve had such success because those guys are working at every aspect and every angle during practice and during the game.”

The responsibilities vacated by Satterfield, Brown and Ponce will be carried out by those remaining. And that means some support staffers will be stepping up.

Shawn Clark, the remaining offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, will call plays for the offense in the bowl game. That role originally belonged to Satterfield with Ponce mixed in. And co-defensive coordinator Dale Jones will call for the defense in place of Brown.

Defensive assistant David Stuckman is working with cornerbacks (another Brown role), while grad assistant Pete Thomas is mentoring quarterbacks. And as Ivey oversees the whole team, defensive analyst Anthony Shakir will handle the defensive line.

“From what I’ve seen, all three of them are doing a great job just two days in,” Ivey said of the personnel pitching in for the coaching staff. “But hope they’ll keep performing at that level.”

Stability, players said on Thursday, is coming from Ivey. His energy has helped ease some the initial uneasiness of change. He’s a face and a voice that everyone recognizes and appreciates.

“Even though you don’t see it in practice, around the facilities he’ll talk you up for days,” said junior left tackle Victor Johnson. “Coach Ivey, he knows everyone, he knows everyone’s personality.”

A former walk-on, just like Satterfield, Ivey’s gone from player to assistant and now finds himself guiding his alma mater. He said on Thursday that he “will always love being a Mountaineer.”

Ivey doesn’t see this bowl game as a tryout for him, but he was also frank about his goal.

“I know I would sure love to have this position, but to me, I’m just going to do the same thing I’ve done every day, which is continue to work with the guys,” Ivey said. “Anybody that I can come in contact with and encourage them and hopefully motivate them and keep teaching football.

“That’s our job: to try to use football as a tool to help make better people. My role was that as defensive line coach and then the assistant head coach and then now as the interim head coach, I just want to continue to do that so again, just excited to be in that role and keep working.”

Junior safety Josh Thomas called the last 48 hours wild. But normalcy came in the App State practice facility as snow filled Kidd Brewer Stadium. Watching coaches make decisions on their livelihood made the last two days much more intense.

But much like Stout mentioned in the team’s meeting on Tuesday, he’s focused on playing strong for his teammates. The goal is to win another bowl, which would be four straight for the Mountaineers, an unprecedented run in FBS history. Satterfield, Thomas said, always told the players that the team belonged to them.

Thomas said it’s time to show that ownership now.

“From the beginning, me, Quon, Vic, Flo (Anthony Flory), we’ve been leading the team how we always do: through our actions,” Thomas said. “We don’t have to say a lot because guys know what the expectation is when we step on the field. We got to out there and perform. We have a game this upcoming Saturday, and we’re expected to make plays. That’s what we’re going to do.”

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