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Mountaineers crowned Cure Bowl Champions in 13-9 monsoon victory

Landon Williams
Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar gets ready for the snap against Georgia Southern Nov. 25. Aguilar was named Cure Bowl MVP after throwing for 211 passing yards and one rushing touchdown.

In App State’s eighth bowl game in nine years, they faced off against Miami (OH) in Orlando, Florida. The Black and Gold survived a 13-9 victory as the Mountaineers became seven-time Bowl Champions in the Cure Bowl that saw 13 total fumbles, tied for fourth-most in a Bowl Game.

“We’re the 2023 Cure Bowl Champions,” said head coach Shawn Clark. “That beautiful hardwood goes back to our beautiful facility and that’ll help us jump start the 2024 season.” 

A rain-filled Saturday afternoon started with the Mountaineers receiving the opening kick-off. With the elements playing a factor, junior quarterback Joey Aguilar’s first pass of the game was intercepted by the RedHawks defense. 

The Mountaineers’ defense held strong after three straight rushing plays and forced the RedHawks to settle for a 34-yard field goal, giving Miami a 3-0 lead. 

RedHawks quarterback Henry Hesson made his first career start in the Cure Bowl as former quarterback Aveon Smith entered the transfer portal. With the rain playing a factor and an inexperienced starting quarterback, Miami planned around the run game.

After Aguilar’s interception, he continued to look downfield and completed a 52-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson. The deep completion set up junior kicker Michael Hughes for a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at three. 

Miami crossed midfield after keeping the ball in the hands of RedHawks running back Rashad Amos. A second-down sack from redshirt defensive end Santana Hopper halted the RedHawks and was eventually forced to punt. 

The Mountaineers continued to fight the conditions as Robinson hauled in receptions of 20 and 14 yards. A sack fumble by the RedHawks forced App State into a 3rd and 23, but junior running back Anderson Castle broke free for a 26-yard gain. With the ball at the 10-yard line, the Black and Gold failed to cross the goal line and settled for a 22-yard field goal from Hughes to take a 6-3 lead.

After Amos opened up the Miami drive with a 28-yard rush, Amos coughed up the ball at midfield and senior safety Nick Ross fell on the loose ball. 

On fourth and short, Aguilar rolled out to pick up the first down and lowered the shoulder for a gain of 16 yards. With the ball in the red zone and facing another fourth down, the Mountaineers kept the offense on the field. Aguilar’s pass fell incomplete as Robinson stumbled out of his route, turning the ball over on downs.

The RedHawks responded with a 28-yard completion on third and long, but was followed by a fumbled snap on second down that halted and forced Miami to punt. 

With less than five minutes remaining in the first half, Aguilar completed back-to-back passes of five yards to Robinson. The RedHawks stopped the Mountaineers on third down as redshirt freshman running back Kanye Roberts came up two yards short of the first down marker, forcing freshman punter Mitchell Lake to punt with two minutes remaining. 

RedHawks quarterback Maddox Kopp replaced Hesson to begin the drive. Amos continued to be handed the ball, but fumbled it on second down and was recovered by Hopper at the 28-yard line. 

After a third-down completion of five yards to Robinson, the Mountaineers kept the offense on the field with 34 seconds remaining on 4th and 1. Castle was handed the ball and was stuffed for a gain of zero yards, turning the ball over on downs. 

The RedHawks kneeled to end the first half as the Mountaineers took a 6-3 lead to the locker room.

App State totaled 202 first-half yards compared to Miami’s 109 yards.

After a first half that saw 1.45 inches of rain and seven fumbles, Amos received five straight carries for 23 yards. Hesson was put back into the game as the RedHawks quarterback. On fourth and short in App State territory, Amos was stopped short by senior safety EJ Jackson. 

The Mountaineers utilized their run game on their first drive of the second half as Roberts gained 34 yards on four rushing attempts. With the ball in the red zone, Aguilar completed a pass on third down to junior tight end Eli Wilson. On the next play, Aguilar took the read option and rushed into the endzone for a 9-yard touchdown to give App State a 13-3 lead.

On the RedHawks drive’s first play, Montez Kelley sacked Hesson, leading to a punt after the three-and-out from Miami.

On the following drive, Roberts fumbled the handoff on second down, and it was recovered by the RedHawks’ defense at the 25-yard line. 

Miami took advantage of the turnover as Amos rushed for a 23-yard touchdown, but the RedHawks failed the extra point attempt. The Mountaineers’ advantage dropped to 13-9 as Hopper was ejected after the play because of a punch thrown. 

A promising drive for App State was halted on a botched snap on second down that senior offensive lineman Isaiah Helms recovered. Aguilar’s pass on third down was incomplete as junior wide receiver Christan Horn lost his footing after the break in his route. 

The Black and Gold defense forced a three-and-out from the RedHawks to open the fourth quarter. 

Castle opened the drive with 11 yards on two carries, then Aguilar found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dalton Stroman for a 10-yard completion. On the next play, the snap never left the ground and was recovered by the RedHawks at midfield. 

Miami failed to capitalize off the turnover and suffered a three-and-out. By trying to play the field position game, the RedHawks punted on fourth down, but was shanked as the punt traveled 16 yards.

In hopes of running down the clock, the Black and Gold suffered a three-and-out and punted 53 yards downfield as the ball was downed at the 9-yard line. 

With less than six minutes remaining, the RedHawks kept the ball in Amos’ hands for a unique two-minute offensive style featuring running plays. Amos was given the ball on six straight plays for 41 rushing yards. Two plays later, redshirt freshman cornerback Omari Philyaw forced a fumble that junior safety Ronald Clarke recovered.

With less than three minutes remaining, Castle received carries and rushed for gains of 10 and 25 yards. Castle picked up one last first down, ending the game as players celebrated and slid across the rain-soaked field.

“I hope they won’t complain the next time we have to go outside and practice in February when we’re training in snow,” Clark said jokingly.

Aguilar won the Cure Bowl MVP award as he threw for 211 yards, 14 rushing yards and one touchdown.

“It honestly doesn’t have too much to do with me, I just get the ball to the receivers and they make the plays,” Aguilar said. “The rain is just another factor for us to have fun.”

Robinson led the team in receiving with 118 yards on nine catches. Castle led in rushing with 119 yards on 20 attempts. As a team, the Black and Gold totaled 388 offensive yards. 

The Mountaineers’ defense allowed 227 total yards as Amos rushed for 180 yards on 33 attempts. The RedHawks completed six passes among their two quarterbacks for 44 yards. 

App State heads into the off-season with a 9-5 record in 2023 as the Mountaineers win their third bowl game under Clark. 

“Very proud of our football team,” Clark said. “To win nine games in a season; we were 3-4 in October and we went on a five game run. It’s because kids like these, kids we recruit for our football program, believe in each other and believe in what we do.”

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About the Contributors
Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor
Chance Chamberlain (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Landon Williams, Photographer
Landon Williams (he/him) is a Junior majoring in Commercial Photography from Winston Salem, NC. This is his second year with The Appalachian. 
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