THE MORNING AFTER…CAMELLIA BOWL

In 2015 Appalachian State became the first team in NCAA history to win a bowl game in their first year of eligibility at the Camellia Bowl. In 2016 App State became the first team in NCAA history to win bowl games in their first two years of eligibility at the Camellia Bowl. They’re the 2016 Sun Belt Champions, 20-4 in three Sun Belt seasons and the Mountaineers aren’t nearly done yet.

The state flower of North Carolina is the Dogwood, but the favorite blossom of Boone is now the Camellia.

Appalachian State sealed the designation with a 31-28 Camellia Bowl win over Toledo, for the Mountaineers’ second Camellia Bowl title in as many years.

Unlike their inaugural win in Montgomery, a hard-played but error-filled 31-29 victory over Ohio, this year’s version featured a sharp series of big plays by both teams until the one critical mistake of the night – a 30-yard Toledo field goal that flew wide right – sealed the App State win.

Camellia Bowl, App State program, and even NCAA records fell like the postgame confetti cascading onto the trophy-wielding Mountaineers.

What Went Right?

Cox-mellia Bowl: If there were an NFL franchise in Montgomery, AL Marcus Cox would be their first-round draft pick. The 2015 Camellia Bowl MVP rushed for 305 yards and two touchdowns in two Cramton Bowl appearances. Cox also became the 23rd FBS runner to eclipse 5,000 career-rushing yards and the only Mountaineer to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.

THE MVP: App State quarterback Taylor Lamb owned the night with incredible savvy. Just when the Mountaineers needed it, time and time again Lamb made plays that win championships. In fact, of App State’s 25 first downs Lamb generated 10 throwing the ball and five more with his legs. His MVP night included a Camellia Bowl QB record 126 rushing yards.

Holding Toledo: The Rockets threw some haymakers, because they’re awfully good offensively. But, the App State defense delivered a defensive performance against Toledo like no other team had this season. The Mountaineers held Toledo to their lowest yardage game (374) of 2016, held QB Logan Woodside 76 yards under his passing average, and limited Toledo to 10 points below their scoring average.

Heavens, Evans: Mountaineer true freshman Darrynton Evans had been a step away from breaking the big return more than once this season, and against Toledo a short, rolling kickoff disrupted the Rockets’ coverage scheme. Evans then erupted up the sideline with sprinter’s speed and turned in not only a 94-yard touchdown return, but also the longest scoring play in Camellia Bowl history.

Kicking the Habit: Appalachian placekicker Michael Rubino had a challenging start to his redshirt freshman season going 4-8 through his first five games, but he came into the Camellia Bowl having made 10 of his last 12 attempts and was perfect from inside 40 yards for the season. Then, the moment came – as he did last season, Head Coach Scott Satterfield put the outcome of a bowl championship on his kicker’s foot. Rubino delivered a 39-yarder for the winning points.

What Went Wrong?

Receiver Drops: Officially, the stat crew assigned Mountaineer receivers with four dropped passes, but our unofficial observation is that it was more like six missed opportunities. Lamb’s 44% completion percentage was heavily impacted by the drops, which also resulted in some prematurely-concluded drives that had field-position implications.

Big Rocket Plays: Toledo lived up to their billing – they’re big-time playmakers. Overall, the Mountaineer defense held Toledo relatively well in check, but the Rockets still managed four plays of 25-58 yards. Those four plays netted 167 offensive yards, but otherwise Appalachian limited Toledo to 207 yards on the remaining 50 snaps.

What Is Developing?

Owning Ohio: In Appalachian State’s last 14 games the Mountaineers have beaten Ohio University, Akron University and Toledo for a 3-0 record and two Camellia Bowl Championships. In fact, the Mid-American Conference may encourage bowl committees to banish App State from the Cramton Bowl permanently going forward.

What Is Next?

More of the Same: A seminal senior class has played their last game in black and gold, but their championship legacy carries on. And, championship football rarely rests; recruiting is first with national signing day on February 1st and, then, “spring” ball begins the next week with nine starting positions up for grabs before the 2017 season returns during Labor Day weekend.

CAMELLIA BOWL POSTGAME INTERVIEWS

HEAD COACH SCOTT SATTERFIELD

MARCUS COX, TAYLOR LAMB & JOHN LAW

RUNNING BACK MARCUS COX

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN PARKER COLLINS

INSIDE LINEBACKER JOHN LAW

INSIDE LINEBACKER ERIC BOGGS

KICKER MICHAEL RUBINO

RUNNING BACK DARRYNTON EVANS

DEFENSIVE END CALEB FULLER


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