Editor’s note: The original article stated that App State is the only school to win a bowl game in their first eligible year, however this was an error in reporting and has been deleted.
For the third consecutive year, the App State football team is bowl bound, this time to the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where they will rematch their opponent from the 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, the Toledo Rockets. The bid was announced on Sunday afternoon, and it will be played on Dec. 23 and televised on ESPN.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Appalachian State University,” Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said. “We’re proud of what our student-athletes, coaches and staff have accomplished as co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference, and this is a deserved reward for their hard work and dedication.”
The bid was announced less than 24 hours after the Mountaineers defeated the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to improve their record to 8-4 and clinch a share of the Sun Belt Championship for the second consecutive season. They share the title with Troy, who was selected to face North Texas in the R+L Carriers Bowl in New Orleans.
“Since January, our players and staff have been focused on winning a championship and making it back to the postseason,” coach Scott Satterfield said. “We are proud to have reached the top of the Sun Belt again and we’re looking forward to facing the MAC Champion in a Toledo team that we are very familiar with.”
In the 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, which was the last time App State faced Toledo, the Mountaineers won an exciting matchup, where kicker Michael Rubino hit a 33-yard field goal attempt with five minutes left, giving the Mountaineers a 31-28 victory. One of the key players in the game for Toledo was running back Kareem Hunt, who now suits up for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. Hunt rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns against App State.
Returning to face the Mountaineers again this season is Rockets’ senior quarterback, Logan Woodside. Woodside threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, and surged back for a dominant 2017 season. His completion percentage (64.9), yards (3,758) and touchdowns (28) all lead the Mid-American Conference. His quarterback rating (169.1) and yards were also sixth and eighth in the country respectively. The Rockets have a solid rush attack again this season, with senior back Terry Swanson running for a MAC best 1,319 yards, good for 23rd in the nation, and 14 touchdowns.
The Mountaineers also have impact players returning for the matchup, including senior quarterback Taylor Lamb. Lamb, who rushed for 126 yards in the game last season, has thrown for 27 touchdowns with only six interceptions so far this season. No other Sun Belt quarterback has been as efficient this season.
The bowl game will be the final appearance for several other Mountaineers’ seniors, including linebackers Eric Boggs, Devan Stringer and Rashaad Townes, wide receiver Ike Lewis and defensive back A.J. Howard.
Junior running back Jalin Moore also appeared in the 2016 Camellia Bowl, but took a backseat to senior Marcus Cox, and rushed for only 35 yards in the game. This season, Moore has rushed for 912 yards, good for second in the Sun Belt. He missed time this season battling injuries and has 32 fewer carries than Idaho’s Aaron Duckworth, who led the conference with 1,025 yards. Moore’s nine touchdowns also tied for third in the Sun Belt.
The Mountaineers will look to pick up their third consecutive bowl victory in as many years of eligibility. With such a tenacious Rockets offense in their path, the 38th ranked Mountaineer defense will have to bring their best in order to keep the streak alive.
Story By: Brooks Maynard, Sports Editor
Photo By: Halle Keighton, Photo Editor