By Tim Gardner
Running back Camerun Peoples set a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) bowl record with 319 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns to lead Appalachian State to a 56-28 rout of North Texas in the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl Monday, December 21 in Conway, SC.
The Mountaineers scored early and often in the game broadcast nationally on ESPN to begin the 2020 bowl schedule.
With the victory, the Mountaineers finished the season with a 9-3 record under the direction of first-year head coach Shawn Clark and earned their sixth straight bowl victory.
They also have won at least nine games in each of the last six seasons.
Appalachian State moved from the lower-level Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the major college FBS during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, becoming eligible for a bowl game for the first time in the 2015 season. The Mountaineers also won the 2015 and 2016 Camellia, the 2017 Dollar General and 2018 and 2019 New Orleans Bowl.
“You play the game to win championships,” Clark said. “A lot of weight off our shoulders to win our sixth bowl game in a row, and that’s something we take a lot of pride in in Boone and our program. Our guys are resilient, and I told our guys we’d be remembered for how we finished this season. We finished it the right way against a very good opponent.”
Peoples, who had 23 rushing attempts, had three runs of at least 62 yards in the win. He also set a new Appalachian State record for most rushing yards in a game. The previous school rushing record was 313 yards by Armanti Edwards against Richmond in 2007. And Peoples’ five rushing touchdowns tied John Settle’s single-game school record (Davidson, 1986).
Peoples tied six other players, including Barry Sanders, as the only ones to have scored five rushing touchdowns in a bowl game. Entering the game, Peoples needed 193 yards to give Appalachian State a 1,000-yard rusher for the ninth straight year — a streak that may be the nation’s longest active one at season’s end.
“This is probably one of the most memorable football games I’ve ever played,” Peoples said. “I didn’t realize what I was doing until the fourth quarter.”
Marcus Williams Jr. added 101 yards on six carries for the Mountaineers, who produced a whopping 638 yards of total offense.
Appalachian State rolled up a sterling 502 yards via its ground game behind a stellar offensive line with Noah Hannon, Ryan Neuzil, Baer Hunter, Cooper Hodges and Anderson Hardy blocking.
Defensively, Appalachian State got sacks by D’Marco Jackson, Hansky Paillant and Nick Hampton, and Steven Jones returned an interception 63 yards to set up Peoples’ final touchdown. Kaiden Smith recorded a team-high 13 tackles, followed by Trey Cobb and Jackson with 12 each and Brendan Harrington with 11.
The Mountaineers scored their first touchdown on a 22-yard pass from Malik Williams to Henry Pearson. It was the third touchdown pass that Williams has in bowl games. He threw two in the 2018 New Orleans Bowl. It also marked the fourth trick-play collegiate touchdown pass for Williams, a senior receiver and former high school quarterback.
Peoples capped a 13-play, 90-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown to increase Appalachian State’s lead to 14-0 later in the first quarter, and North Texas broke through with a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kason Martin to Loronzo Thompson early in the second quarter before Pearson scored for the second time on an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Thomas.
After the Mean Green’s Ethan Mooney missed a 47-yard field goal with Appalachian State leading 21-7, Williams Jr. ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run on the next play.
North Texas (4-6) answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Oscar Adaway, to cut its deficit to 28-14 with 27 seconds left before the half. But Appalachian State took over at its 36-yard line with 22 seconds remaining and three timeouts. With Neuzil and Hardy blocking on the left side, Hunter and Hodges creating a cut-back lane on the right side and Hannon reaching the second level, Peoples broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown run–which at the time was the longest run of his career—as the Mountaineers built a commanding 35-14 cushion.
“That’s the bread and butter of our offense, being able to run the football (effectively),” Clark declared.
North Texas cut the deficit to 35-21 with 6:14 left in the third quarter on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jason Bean to Austin Ogunmakin. But Appalachian State pushed its lead back to 21 points on a 62-yard touchdown run by Peoples. He also scored touchdowns of 1 and 11 yards in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
Chandler Staton was a perfect 8-for-8 kicking extra points for the Mountaineers.
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