MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Appalachian State’s Camellia Bowl showdown with Toledo delivered in every way, and, fittingly, the Mountaineer seniors were the difference. Senior running back Marcus Cox broke the 5,000-yard mark for his career and linebackers John Law and Kennan Gilchrist led the App defense as the Mountaineers held off Toledo in a wild Camellia Bowl, 31-28.
App State (10-3) becomes the first team to win bowl games in its first two FBS bowl eligible seasons and posts back-to-back 10-win seasons in its first two bowl eligible FBS seasons as well. Toledo’s season ends at 9-4.
The game was billed as one of the Top 10 matchups of bowl season and didn’t disappoint. The teas alternated all nine scores, though App never trailed. For the second straight season, the Camellia Bowl came down to the final minutes and a field goal.
App State’s Michael Rubino connected on a 39-yarder with 5:14 remaining, but Toledo put itself in a position to answer, just like the Rockets did all night. Toledo drove the ball inside the App 10 inside of two minutes to play, but a stop by Law on third-and-short forced a Rockets’ field goal attempt. Jameson Vest pushed the 30-yarder wide right and App ran out the clock for the win.
Quarterback Taylor Lamb earned the Bart Starr MVP Award rushing for a career high 126 yards and a touchdown. He had a 13-yard touchdown run and kept Toledo off balance with his legs all night. He averaged 14 yards per carry as App piled up 297 yards rushing.
Cox finished with 22 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown, finishing with 5,103 yards for his career. He also eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season in helping App run out the clock.
Freshman Darrynton Evans provided App’s biggest spark of the game, returning a kickoff 94 yards in the third quarter to help App continues to lurch in front of Toledo a touchdown at a time. The defense gave up a handful of big play to Toledo’s explosive offense, but got big efforts from seniors Law (11 tackles) and Gilchrist (9 tackles) to slow down the Rockets just enough. Tee Sims added a sack to end another drive.
Appalachian took their opening drive and marched for 72 yards for a touchdown. Deltron Hopkins took a forward flip from Taylor Lamb and raced 18 yards around right end for Camellia Bowl’s opening score.
Toledo quickly answered back as quarterback Logan Whiteside connected with Corey Jons for 58 yards on the first play of the drive, setting up a 15-yard TD reception by Michael Roberts to knot the game at 7-7 just eight minutes in.
Cox would eclipse the record to close out the first. The senior gashed Toledo for 90 yards in the first half, going over 5,000 yards for his career on a 20-yard carry to close out the first quarter. His 52nd career touchdown came on a 13-yard sprint around left end to give App a 14-7 lead with six minute to play until half, but the Rockets, again, evened things up.
Woodside found Cody Thompson for 25 yards on a corner route setting up a 26-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt to knot the score at 14-14 at the break despite App running twice as many plays in the opening half and outgaining Toledo, 242-172.
App struck first in the second half on a to take a 21-14 lead, briefly. Lamb raced in from 13 yard out on a 4th-and-1 cap a 9-play, 69-yard drive. A pass interference penalty on Toledo trying to cover Shaedon Meadors on the sideline kept the drive alive on third-and-long.
Woodside would put together a pair of 75-yard drives to answer Lamb’s run and Evan’s kickoff return. He found Cody Thompson for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21 late in the third, but Evans’ score gave App the lead 15 seconds later. Woodside found Thompson again on the next drive for 58 yards to set up a Kareem Hunt 1-yard TD leap. Hunt became Toledo’s career rushing leader in the game.
NOTES: App is now 27-5 in their last 32 games dating back to the middle of 2014, only Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama have a better record in their last 32 games…Neither team had consecutive scores, but App never trailed in the win…Only Miami scored a touchdown on the opening drive this season against App…Darrynton Evans’ 94-yard kickoff return in the third quarter was App’s first since the 2012 game against Wofford…App had two running backs go over 100 yards rushing in five of the final six games this season with Lamb’s 126 rushing yards and Cox’s 143 yards.