BACK-TO-BACK: APPS DOWN TOLEDO IN CAMELLIA BOWL

Published Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 9:05 am
Taylor Lamb totaled 245 yards of offense and two scores en route to helping the Apps capture their second Camellia Bowl Championship in as many years. Courtesy: Appalachian State Athletics

Taylor Lamb totaled 245 yards of offense and two scores en route to helping the Apps capture their second Camellia Bowl Championship in as many years.
Courtesy: Appalachian State Athletics

By David Coulson
 
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Excuse Appalachian State’s football team for feeling like it was reliving Groundhogs’ Day all week in preparation for the Raycom-Camellia Bowl. But in the end, the Mountaineers took an eerily similar victory over Toledo to their 31-29 win against Ohio University here last year.
 
Freshman Michael Rubino’s clutch, 39-yard field goal with 5:14 remaining lifted ASU to a 31-28 lead and Jameson Vest’s missed kick from 30 yards out at the 1:48 mark allowed the Mountaineers to hang on for their second consecutive Camellia Bowl win before 20,300 fans at the historic Crampton Bowl.
 
In an entertaining contest, filled with dynamic plays from start to finish, App State came up with a near-perfect conclusion to an incredible season. The Mountaineers (10-3) won a share of their first Sun Belt Conference championship, returned to a bowl in just their second year of eligibility and won their final game to finish with double-digit victories in back-to-back years at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
 
“Our goals from the start were to win the Sun Belt, get back into a bowl game and win,” ASU coach Scott Satterfield said. “I don’t know what else you can do.”
 
The list of heroes on this special night was voluminous, including quarterback and most valuable player Taylor Lamb, running back Marcus Cox, linebacker John Law, receivers Ike Lewis and Deltron Hopkins, returnman Darryton Evans and, of course, Rubino.
 
Lamb (14-of-32 passing for 119 yards, nine carries for a career-high 126 yards rushing) connected with Hopkins on a 16-yard jet sweep/shovel pass for the game’s first touchdown and Cox dashed in from 13 yards out for ASU’s second score midway through the next period.
 
Lamb added a 13-yard option scamper to give the Mountaineers another lead in the third stanza and Evans electrified the crowd with his 94-yard kickoff return touchdown 14 seconds after Toledo had tied the game, 21-21, later in that quarter.
 
“When they tried to stop (Cox and fellow-1,000-yard rusher Jalin Moore), they forgot about Taylor,” Cox said. 
 
Seniors Cox and Law put incredible stamps on their final games as Mountaineers.
 
Cox became the first Appalachian player to go over the 5,000-yard rushing mark for his career early in the game and became one of a handful of Division I players to run for 1,000 yards in four consecutive season. Cox carried 22 times for 143 yards.
 
Law, healthier than he has been in weeks, led the defensive effort with 11 tackles, including six solo stops and one tackle for loss.
 
“I felt I wanted to live it all out there,” Law said.
 
And his effort had a dramatic effect on his teammates all afternoon and evening.
 
“It was a great college football game (and) we did the things to win at the end,” said Satterfield. “We have so much fight and so much integrity. You can’t win like this unless you do things the right way.”
 
Four times, the Mountaineers spurted to seven-point leads and on each occasion, the Rockets rallied to tie. Only after Rubino’s field goal in the fourth quarter put Appalachian ahead for a fifth time did Toledo finally falter.
 
Rubino’s kick followed a six-play, 35-yard Mountaineer drive that was sparked by a simple misdirection play that Cox broke to the sideline for 26 yards, with a huge seal block from guard Colby Gossett at the corner. Cox’s timely run moved the ball to the Toledo 31 and left Appalachian knocking at the red zone.
 
When Lamb came up a yard short of another first down at the Rocket 22 with his 10-yard quarterback draw three plays later, Rubino was in position to give the Mountaineers their final lead.
 
A year earlier, Zach Matics drilled a 23-yard kick on the final play of the game to win the bowl game for the Mountaineers. But Matics was an All-American-caliber senior with plenty of high-pressure success on his resume.
 
Rubino stepped into the graduated Matics’ role in the season opener and stumbled immediately, missing an extra point and potential game-winning, fourth-quarter field goal at Tennessee. It took a large part of the campaign for Rubino to regain his nerves.
 
“He’s come a long way in the course of the season,” said Satterfield. “I don’t think he has missed a field goal under 40 yards the whole season.”
 
Toledo immediately threatened when Corey Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards to the Rocket 43 and Kareem Hunt (22 attempts for 120 yards and two TDs) rifled out runs of 17, 11 and 13 yards as Toledo closed in on scoring range.
 
Appalachian finally held at its own eight and the Rockets took a five-yard, delay-of-game penalty to give Vest a better angle on his kick. Vest was 13-of-18 during the regular season on field goals, 61-of-62 on extra points and had been successful on 32-of-45 career field-goal attempts.
 
This time, however, Vest’s effort sailed wide right and all the Mountaineers needed was another Cox first down — which he accomplished on the next play — to run out the clock.
 
Toledo (9-4) stayed in the game in large part because the play of quarterback Logan Woodside (18-of-26, 24 yards and two TDs passing) and Hunt on offense and some spectacular pass coverage by one of the top secondaries App State had seen all season.
 
Woodside finished with 45 TD passes as a junior, one off the Mid-American Conference single-season record, and Hunt became Toledo’s all-time leading rusher.
 
“We had a chance to go don and tie the game and we didn’t come through,” Woodside said. “We didn’t turn the ball over and we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
 
But even though App State and Toledo played turnover-free football, the Rockets gave up a few too many big plays in critical situations to win.
 
“A couple of times, (Lamb) got us out of our (defensive) responsibilities and he made us pay,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said. Appalachian “made the plays they had to make.”
 
And those key plays tipped a bowl game in Appalachian’s favor for the second straight year.
 
“Our defense held up good enough,” Satterfield said. “Even if that guy would have made (the field goal), I felt good about it because we had about two minutes on the clock to go back down and kick another field goal to win the game. I loved the game. It was a fun game. It was a back-and-forth game. It was exciting.”
 

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RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL POST-GAME QUOTES

Appalachian State Head Coach Scott Satterfield

Opening Statement

“First of all, I tip my hat off to the University of Toledo and coach Candle and his staff. We knew they were an outstanding football team. We knew that coming in and it proved to be true on the football field. They have some great athletes. The quarterback is outstanding. The running back is a great player. We knew that coming in so I just give my hats off to those guys. They’re a really outstanding football team.

“I’m really proud of our guys. We have so much fight and so much integrity in our football team. They do things right on and off the field and I think you can’t win close games like this if you don’t do things right on and off the field. They believe in each other. Our whole motto this year on our bracelets is we ride together. Everything that we do, we do together. Whether we win or we lose, we’re going to do it together. I’m just so proud of those guys. We’re giving game balls to our seniors because of what they’ve been through. Our fifth-year guys won the Southern Conference five years ago and now they’re Sun Belt champions and two-time Camellia Bowl champions. What they’ve been able to do, they transitioned us. Maybe the most successful team in the history of a transition to FBS with what we’ve been able to do the last two years. I’m so proud of them and our coaching staff, everybody that’s involved with our program from the top to the bottom. From our chancellor, to our athletic director, to our coaches. All the way down through. We all pull in the same direction. You can’t have success like we’ve had if you don’t do that. It’s imperative that you all pull in the same direction. Our support staff, our equipment, our trainer, our strength staff, our video staff. Everybody’s pulling in the same direction. We don’t have any egos. People want to know why we’ve been so successful. That’s why. I’m so proud of this group and this organization. It’s been a long season; it’s been a long three weeks and I’m a little bit tired right now.

On team bouncing back after Toledo big plays:

“Every time we scored, they would answer. That’s the mark of a champion. That’s the mark of a great team and they were able to do that. When we returned the kickoff back, I said ‘now we got the lead back.’ Then they marched right back down and scored again. It was really a wild game, a very entertaining game for the fans, and for ESPN and everybody watching the game. It was a great college football game. When it comes down to the end like that, it takes the small things to win. Our kids never quit, never gave up. The great thing about it is we always were on top. I don’t think we trailed at any point, so that was good. We were always on top, then they would answer and we would have to go back and answer again. That back-and-forth kind of game. We’ve been in some tight games this year and we’ve been able to win most of them. I’m just proud of the resiliency our guys showed.

On kicker Michael Rubino:

“He’s come a long way this season. Our first game against Tennessee, we missed an extra point and we missed a field goal in that game. He’s come a long way. He’s continued to work just like the other kids in our program. They keep working. We don’t give up on them. They keep working. He came out here tonight in pregame and kicked the ball beautifully. That right there to win the game with a 39-yard field goal, under 40, I don’t think he missed this year. He’s perfect under 40 and I’m really proud of him for that. We were down there the drive before and we tried the fake. We thought we had it looking at the way they lined up on us. We’re an aggressive program and we’re always going to keep pressing. We went for it on fourth down maybe three or four times. You’ve got to be aggressive if you want to win close ballgames. I was proud of Michael to come back and make that kick. That was awesome. Then our defense held up good enough. They didn’t get in the end zone and had to kick the field goal, wide right.”

On energy this year:

It was different this year. It was a clean ballgame. There wasn’t the turnovers that we had last year really out of both teams. Both teams took care of the football. We’ve been excellent this year at taking care of the football. I think we finished number one in the Sun Belt in turnover margin. One of the reasons why we’ve been successful. It was a different feel this time, but I think because we never got behind, we always felt we were right there. Even if that guy would have made it, I felt good about it because we had about two minutes on the clock to go back down and kick another field goal to win the game. I loved the game. It was a fun game. It was a back-and-forth game. It was exciting. I enjoyed this one because we never were behind. You can enjoy those when you’re not behind.”

On Taylor Lamb rushing:

“We thought coming into the game that we’d have the opportunity to run our quarterback. In that league, there’s not many offenses that run the quarterback, which we do. Taylor’s a very effective runner in our run game. I didn’t know he’d have this much success. He was very effective in the run game, broke off some big runs, some big first down runs throughout the game. The touchdown run was huge. He’s one tough cookie. He got hit hard tonight several times. I love when he broke off that big run and he jumped right up and got our crowd going.

That’s awesome. That kind of stuff right there is what gets your team going. You don’t see our quarterbacks in the history of our school slide. We don’t slide. That’s the toughness we have and this guy right here is as tough as all of them. It’s unbelievable what he was able to do. Our kids feed off of that. That’s what leaders do. That’s why he’s a winner and that’s why the record that we have right now is because of guys like Taylor and the rest of the guys. They’re so resilient. They refuse to lose. I’m really proud of him and the rest of the guys.”

On matchup with Toledo tight end:

“I’m just glad they quit throwing the ball to him. He’s hard to defend. What a big target. You saw that in the first half when he caught the touchdown. We had two guys on him. He just swatted them off and ran into the end zone. He’s an outstanding player. They have a lot of players. Their quarterback is really good and they have some skill kids that can run. Number four can run. He reminded me of the guy at Akron, the slot receiver Akron has. And then the running back, he’s an outstanding player. Really proud of Marcus too. Marcus going over 5,000 yards for his career, going over 1,000 yards. We had two 1,000 yard rushers in a season. That’s outstanding. Jalin Moore, he’s tough too. I think he went over 1,400 yards for the season.”

On if he ever rushed for 126 yards as a quarterback:

“I probably did. I was more of a running quarterback. Don’t look at my passing stats because they were awful. I was a little more of a running quarterback. Taylor’s trying to catch me though. He keeps on running like that, he’ll pass me easy.”

On kickoff return:

“He was really, really close all year. Akron game kind of showed what he could do. He is a great human being. I love him. He doesn’t say two words, ever, at practice or anything. He just keeps working. For him to take that, what a huge play in the game for a true freshman in his first bowl game, first time here to take a kickoff back the distance for a touchdown. The future is bright for Darrynton Evans. We’re going to find ways to get him the football. He gets in our offseason program, he’s going to be so much better next year. I love the kind of person he is. I love what he stands for.”

On John Law:

“John Law. He played tonight. He played awesome tonight. We always talk about in our program how are you going to finish and what are you going to be remembered for. Well this is what John Law is going to be remembered for. How he finished tonight in this bowl game. He was hitting tonight. He didn’t get to play in last year’s bowl game, so he was so pumped and excited. He’s finally fresh. Over the last three weeks, he’s gotten healed up. He wanted to lay it all out there and he did tonight. I’m so proud of John. I love him, his family, and what he stands for as well. He’s a guy that’s got the three rings. SoCon championship, Sun Belt championship, and two Camellia Bowls. What a great leader for our program.”

On overall season:

“When we set out this season, our goals were to number one win the Sun Belt, number two to get to a bowl and win the bowl. We pretty much did everything we set out to do this year. We got double digit wins again. Back-to-back double digit wins. Back-to-back Camellia Bowl champions. I don’t know what else you can do. We did about all we could do this year. It was unbelievable. What’s great about this is in our program right now, we got a lot of great players coming back. Our defense is going to be outstanding next year. We got our running back. We got our quarterback. All our receivers are back except for Jaquil. We’re going to be really good again next year. This right here is going to snowball into recruiting. We’ve already got a great class committed right now if we can hang onto them. We’ve got to get a few more that’ll come to us in February. It’s going to continue to snowball and we’re going to bring in some great student-athletes in this next class and have a great offseason and we can’t wait for Georgia. That’s our first game next year. We’re excited about it.”

RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL POST-GAME QUOTES

Appalachian State Quarterback Taylor Lamb, Bart Starr MVP Award Winner, on if he was disappointed when Marcus Cox went past him in yardage late on the game:

“No, I just wanted yards. I wanted a first down. It’s easy to hand it off to Marcus Cox, Jalin Moore and those guys. That makes my job easier.”

On play where he got the crowd into the game:

“It was a third-and-long. We had a QB draw on. They had a light box. They had a five-man box, so we could block them all. I stepped back and I just tried to find a hole through there, and all their guys were in pass coverage. We did a good job of blocking up that linebacker and I just got down the field and I felt the energy from the crowd. The turning point in the game was that because it was third-and-long and I tried to pump up the crowd and get the guys going.”

On why he didn’t slide at the end of the play:

“I don’t like sliding. You can get more yards when you’re going forward. Sliding is kind of going backwards.”

On picking up leadership left behind by this year’s seniors:

“They make it easy to pick it up. They’ve done a great job of leading this team all through their career. Learning from Marcus (Cox) and John (Law) on how to lead a team, what things to do to lead a team to get the guys focused. They left it in a great spot for our senior class to step up.”

On touchdown keeper on fourth down:

“We were reading it and all 11 guys on defense went to Marcus (Cox). I just went around the edge and there was nobody in sight.”

On Toledo continuing to come back:

“That’s a great Toledo team. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be a four-quarter battle. I think we embraced that. We’ve embraced it all year. The Akron game, we embraced it. You just got to play those four quarters and I think our defense did a great job shutting them down there in the second half. We went down there and should’ve scored a couple touchdowns, but we only got three points out of it. That’s kind of frustrating, but we’re the champs.”

On offensive lineman Parker Collins:

“Parker’s a guy that you want on your team, not the other team. Sometimes. His penalties kind of hurt. I try to calm him down out there, but he doesn’t listen very well. He’s a very emotional leader on our offensive line that we’ll miss next year. It will be a hard gap to fill. Parker Collins is one of a kind.”

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