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DETROIT — Florida International coach Mario Cristobal likes to say that Scott Satterfield is the toughest recruiting coup he's ever landed.
No, Satterfield isn't a standout quarterback or linebacker for the Golden Panthers. He's actually their first-year offensive coordinator after spending last season at the University of Toledo.
Cristobal had been trying to lure Satterfield to Miami since taking the helm at FIU in 2006, but Satterfield had repeatedly turned him down until earlier this year.
"I've stayed in touch with him and finally I was able to track him down," Cristobal said. "He's been a tough guy to get."
Satterfield and the Rockets squared off against Cristobal and the Golden Panthers last season in Miami, but Sunday night, Satterfield will be on the other side when the two teams take part in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field.
"It was kind of ironic that we ended up with Toledo," said Satterfield, a native of Hillsborough, N.C., and graduate of Appalachian State, where he also coached and was part of three-straight national championships and the Mountaineers' upset of Michigan in 2007.
"It was a little bit of a shock, but at the same time, it's a familiar foe that we'll be playing," Satterfield added. "You always hate to go back and play against guys you had a vested interest [in] at this time a year ago."
At Toledo, Satterfield was the quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator with Matt Campbell, who handled the play-calling duties and still has the same responsibilities this season with the Rockets.
Satterfield said the prospect of becoming the lone offensive coordinator at FIU appealed to him and prompted his move to Miami. He also received a hefty pay raise at FIU, where he's the highest paid offensive assistant in the Sun Belt making $146,969 per year, according to a USA Today coaches' salary database.
"Just the chance to go run the offense myself and run the show, I just wanted that opportunity," Satterfield said. "Basically, that's the bottom line. Plus the weather is a little nicer."
FIU's turnaround offensively this season under Satterfield has been dramatic.
The Golden Panthers had the 100th-best offense in the country last season in terms of total yardage, but have jumped to 44th nationally this year.
FIU's offense is averaging 402 yards and 28.3 points per game.
"He's brought a lot to this offense," FIU junior quarterback Wes Carroll said of Satterfield. "He's really found the things that we can do well, and we've been able to execute on those things. He's especially brought the best out of our rushing game."
FIU didn't have much of a ground game to speak of before Satterfield's arrival.
The Golden Panthers went from averaging 104 rushing yards per game last season to averaging 189 yards per game on the ground this year using a two-back rotation. Darriet Perry, the bruiser, has 707 rushing yards and 14 TDs, while Darian Mallary, the speedster, has 669 rushing yards and a 5.7 yards per carry average.
That increased workload by the running backs has in turn allowed Carroll to blossom. The transfer from Mississippi State is in position to break every major single-season passing record at FIU Sunday.
Carroll is already tied for the school touchdown record with 15 and needs just 11 yards to break the passing yardage mark. He already owns the completion percentage record (61.8) and his 2,479 yards of offense are the most in the nine-year history of the program.
"The running game has really helped us as far as the passing game," Satterfield said. "We've controlled the ball a little bit better. We've not giving up as many sacks. The third-down efficiency has been better. Anytime you can run the football, it allows you to do some things offensively."
Satterfield also helped engineer Toledo's potent offense last year, when Aaron Opelt was among the nation's leaders is passing before suffering a shoulder injury that derailed his and the Rockets' season.
"He's a great coach, and I wouldn't have brought him here if he wasn't," UT coach Tim Beckman said. "I thought he did an excellent job with the situation we had at quarterback last year when Opelt went down and then [Austin] Dantin went down and we were playing our third quarterback."
Satterfield and Beckman dismissed any possible advantage either team gains Sunday by Satterfield switching sides.
"After you've played 12 games, I think your resume speaks for itself," Satterfield said. "The only thing I may be able to help on is personnel — who's a strong guy, who's really a fast guy, you know, that kind of thing. As far as schemes, after 12 games, you're going to do what you do."