Appalachian State won the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in dramatic fashion for the second straight season, beating Toledo 31-28 in a highly competitive game. The win was App’s 10th of the year, improving their record to 10-3 on the season. Toledo, who never led, had a chance to tie the game with 1:48 left, but missed a 30-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Success in the Run Game:
Taylor Lamb and Marcus Cox provided all the offensive punch the Mountaineers needed, combining for 269 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Lamb was selected as the Bart Starr MVP, finishing the game on 14-32 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown to go along with another touchdown and 126 yards rushing.
Cox, needing 40 yards before the game to become only the 22nd person to rush for 5000 yards in a career at the FBS level, ended up with 143 on the night. He ended the season with over 1000 yards rushing in only nine games, becoming the only player in Appalachian State history with four 1000 yard seasons.
Freshman Darrynton Evans provided the highlight of the night when he returned a kick 94 yards to give Appalachian State a 28-21 lead with 2:16 remaining in the third quarter. It was the first time Appalachian State has returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Tony Washington did it in 2012 against Wofford.
For Evans, it provided him an opportunity to contribute, something of a rarity since Marcus Cox returned to the lineup from an injury five games ago. Evans previous career best return was a 41-yard effort against Akron early in the season.
Rocket Powered Offense:
App State’s defense had no answer for Toledo whenever they needed to score. While App State never trailed in the game, Toledo was able to tie it up on four different occasions. The Rockets’ Logan Woodside was especially effective, throwing for 247 yards and two scores on 18-26 passing.
Kareem Hunt, standout running back for the Rockets continued his stellar play this season, going for 120 yards and two touchdowns of his own on 12 carries.
Despite not being able to prevent the Rockets from scoring, the Mountaineers were able to hold them to just 374 yards of total offense, well below their season average of 529.8 which was fourth best in the nation heading into this game.
Drama Part II:
Despite never trailing, the game was an exciting one until the very end. Having rallied to beat Ohio in last year’s edition of the Camellia Bowl, Toledo proved to be just as tough an opponent. The Mountaineers relied on kicker Michael Rubino for the go-ahead points, an opportunity for redemption as Rubino missed key field goals during App’s upset bid against then number nine ranked Tennessee.
In the three Camellia Bowls played, the total margin of victory for those games has been 10 points. While not the most prestigious bowl game, close finishes like these make it exciting, can’t-miss entertainment.
Story: Lee Sanderlin, Enterprise Editor
Photo Credit: Braxton Critcher, Staff Photographer