App Rallies To Win Camellia Bowl, 31-29

Published Monday, December 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Appalachian State Mountaineers Rally to Win Camellia Bowl

MONTGOMERY, Ala. —

MOUNTAINEERS RALLY TO WIN CAMELLIA BOWL, 31-29

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Zach Matics (Jacksonville, N.C./Southwest-Onslow) kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired to lift Appalachian State University football to a historic 31-29 win over Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Saturday evening at the Cramton Bowl.

Appalachian State (11-2) trailed 24-7 going into the fourth quarter but outscored Ohio (8-5), 24-5, in the final 13:52 of the game to become the first 11-win team in Sun Belt Conference history. Appalachian also set a new record for victories by a team in its first season as a full-fledged member of NCAA Division I FBS (previously Division I-A) after transitioning from Division I FCS (previously I-AA) and the first team to win a bowl game in its initial season as a full-fledged FBS squad.

All of those feats seemed unlikely when the Mountaineers entered the final period facing a 17-point deficit but they quickly turned the tables, scoring three touchdowns in a 1:56 span and taking a 28-24 advantage barely three minutes into the quarter.

After App State’s three-touchdown flurry, it was Ohio’s turn to rally, which it did with a safety and a 21-yard field goal with 1:47 to go to retake a 29-28 lead.

However, sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb (Calhoun, Ga./Calhoun) calmly led the Mountaineers on a nine-play, 73-yard drive over the final 107 seconds that culminated with Matics’ 23-yard game-winner. Lamb accounted for 51 of the 73 yards on the game-winning drive, including a 32-yard run that moved Appalachian from its own 41 yard line all the way to the OU 27 with a minute left on the clock.

With Marcus Cox (Dacula, Ga./Dacula), who rushed for 162 yards on 24 carries, sidelined with a lower-body injury for the final series, freshman Jalin Moore (Shelby, N.C./Shelby) got the ball on three of the next four plays and picked up 21 yards to move the Mountaineers to the six yard line.

App State took a timeout with two seconds left to set up Matics for the role of hero. The fifth-year senior, who was the nation’s second-most accurate kicker during the regular season but missed from 39 and 42 yards in the first quarter, drilled the 23-yard game-winner, setting off a wild celebration among the Mountaineers and an estimated 7,000 Black-and-Gold faithful that easily outnumbered Ohio fans in attendance.

Appalachian dominated the action for most of the first half but the two missed field goals and a pair of costly turnovers in the waning minutes before halftime sent the Mountaineers to the locker room with a 17-7 deficit.

The Mountaineers held a commanding 188-33 advantage in total yardage through a quarter-and-a-half but, due mainly to the two errant field-goal attempts, led just 7-0. Despite Ohio putting together a 45-yard drive that it capped with a 36-yard field goal, it still appeared that the Mountaineers would take the advantage into the locker room when they led 7-3 with 1:31 to go in the opening half.

However, the tide turned in the final 91 seconds of the half. On the first offensive play after Ohio’s field goal, OU linebacker Quentin Poling picked off Lamb and returned the interception 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Bobcats a 10-7 lead.

Things went from bad to worse five plays later when Lamb mishandled a snap and it was recovered by OU’s Tony Porter at the App State 23 yard line. Two plays after the miscue, Ohio running back A.J. Ouellette rumbled in from seven yards out and, in the span of just 1:11, the Mountaineers’ 7-0 lead had turned into a 17-7 halftime deficit.

The Mountaineers’ turnover parade continued in the third quarter when Ike Lewis (Simpsonville, S.C./Hillcrest) caught a short pass on a speed sweep but as he tried to turn the corner on the edge, had the ball stripped right out of his hands by OU linebacker Jovon Johnson. Johnson took the ball 45 yards to paydirt to extend the Bobcats’ lead to 24-7 with 8:06 left in the third quarter and set up the wild final period.

Appalachian State’s comeback began in earnest late in the third quarter when it started what would turn out to be an 11-play, 97-yard touchdown drive. The series was aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty on Ohio defensive back Toran Davis, who clocked wideout Dante Jones (Raleigh, N.C./Southeast Raleigh) several steps after Jones was overthrown by Lamb on a third-and-seven play from the App State 44 yard line. Six plays later, Lamb found junior tight end Barrett Burns (Woodstock, Ga./Etowah) for a 17-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 24-14.

Just two plays into Ohio’s ensuing possession, sophomore Latrell Gibbs (Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb) recorded his seventh interception of the year and returned it 11 yards to the OU 26. On the very next snap, Cox ran nearly untouched right up the middle for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 24-21 and get awaken the partisan Mountaineer crowd.

Once again, it only took Ohio two plays to give the ball right back to the Mountaineers, as Bobcat quarterback J.D. Sprague was picked off by Mondo Williams (Iowa City, Iowa/Iowa City West) at the OU 46.

Cox nearly scored on the very first play after the turnover again but was pushed out of bounds at the 10 yard line after a 36-yard run. Three plays later, Lamb and Burns hooked up again, this time from five yards out, to cap the amazing run of 21 points in 1:56 and give Appalachian a 28-24 lead.

Cox was named the Camellia Bowl’s Bart Starr MVP thanks to his 162-yard effort. In the process, the junior became only the fourth student-athlete in Appalachian State history to rush for 4,000 yards in a career, upping his career total to 4,088 yards with a season left to play. Cox also matched a school record with the 22nd 100-yard rushing performance of his 36-game career.

Despite a shaky middle portion of the game, Lamb finished 176 yards of total offense (124 passing, 51 rushing) and accounted for three of the Mountaineers’ four touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). His two touchdown passes gave him 31 for the season, which broke the school record of 30, set by Armanti Edwards in 2008.

Burns caught both of Lamb’s touchdown passes, giving him eight touchdown receptions for the season, which matched Daniel Bettis’ school record for tight ends set in 2005.

Gibbs headlined Appalachian State’s extraordinary defensive effort with seven tackles and three pass breakups to go along with his game-changing interception in the fourth quarter.

Outside linebacker Devan Stringer (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) led the Mountaineers with 10 tackles while inside linebacker Eric Boggs (Belton, S.C./Belton-Honea Path) added nine stops and a sack.

In all, Appalachian State outgained Ohio, 427-272, including a 303-107 edge on the ground.

NOTES: With its 11th victory of the season, Appalachian State broke a tie with Middle Tennessee (10-3 in 2009) and Arkansas State (10-3 in 2011 and 2012) for the winningest season in Sun Belt history … Appalachian also broke a tie with Marshall (10-3 in 1997) for the winningest season by a team in its first season as a full-fledged FBS member … App State is one of only four squads to even make a bowl game in its first full-fledged FBS campaign — Nevada lost to Bowling Green in the 1992 Las Vegas Bowl (35-34), Marshall lost to Ole Miss in the 1997 Motor City Bowl (34-31 in 1997) and Georgia Southern makes its bowl debut on Thursday night against Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl … Appalachian State committed nine turnovers over its final three games of the season (two vs. UL Lafayette, four at South Alabama and three vs. Ohio) but managed to win all three contests … the Mountaineers moved to 17-2 in their last three games … Appalachian moved to 29-23 all-time in postseason games and snapped a three-game postseason losing streak … App State won for the seventh-straight time when playing in the state of Alabama … Appalachian’s final record of 11-2 is its best since it finished 13-2 and won its third-straight FCS national championship in 2007.

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