It took the entire second half, some lucky breaks, and a little bit of luck, but the Appalachian State Mountaineers (11-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) found a way to win over the Ohio Bobcats (8-5, 5-3 MAC) after falling behind 24-7 late in the third quarter.
Marcus Cox ran for 161 yards on 24 carries and scored once, winning Bart Starr Player of the Game Honors, to help lead the Mountaineers in a game where quarterback Taylor Lamb (13 of 26, 124 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) seemed to be off-rhythm for much of the night. No receiver gained more than 42 yards for App State, which left the majority of the load on Cox and Jalin Moore (13 rushes, 94 yards). Barrett Burns (three receptions, 32 yards, two touchdowns) did help put points on the board as well.
AJ Ouelette scored the Bobcats’ sole offensive touchdown, placing an exclamation mark on an otherwise awful day for the power back, who saw only 45 yards on 14 carries. Senior Daz’Mond Patterson (four rushes, 0 yards, 19 receiving yards) had issues all game as well, fumbling on one of his four carries, causing a turnover, and nearly fumbling away a kickoff return.
Only quarterback JD Sprague (35 yards) and freshman running back Papi White (25 yards) had double digit rushing yards of Ohio, and that wasn’t a good sign for the Bobcats—a team that relies on the run game.
The game was a wild and wacky back-and-forth affair, with both sides scoring points in bunches throughout the game.
Ohio scored 21 points off of App State turnovers, thanks in part to a Quentin Poling pick-six and a Jovon Johnson strip-and-score on consecutive possessions. The Bobcats scored those 21 points in 1:11 at the end of the second quarter.
— Justin McNelley (@Justin_WSFA) December 20, 2015
Appalachian State showed it had big play ability as well, scoring 21 points in 42 seconds, thanks to two Burns receiving touchdowns and a blazing run by Cox on the first play from scrimmage, off a turnover caused by Latrell Gibbs.
The fourth quarter proved to be the death knell for the Bobcats, though, who had been playing way beyond expectations in order to stay close in a game they were expected to lose by double digits.
JD Sprague (14 of 28, 132 yards, two interceptions) was under constant pressure and threw two badly-timed interceptions into double coverage right as App State was beginning to regain momentum, both with the crowd and in the game.
A quick safety and a change at quarterback looked to have done the trick late of Ohio, as Greg Windham connected with Kawmae Sawyer for 33 yards on a 4th and 1 play in Mountaineer territory with 3:59 to go, but the drive stalled after the Bobcats couldn’t convert another key third down with time winding down.
The field goal scored on that drive, which put Ohio up by only one, proved to be the difference.
The Ohio defense could not stop Lamb for a 33-yard scamper through a wide open defense, or Jalin Moore, who grabbed 26 of his 92 yards in the final 1:51 of the game. Zach Matics, who had missed the previous two field goal attempts, nailed the game-winning attempt from 23 yards out.
— Chris Clark (@Cdclarksports) December 20, 2015
The win is a first in both school history and NCAA history for the Mountaineers, as Appalachian State became the first school in FBS history to win a bowl game in its first year of eligibility. The win was also the first FBS bowl win in school history, and will be a cherished win, even despite the program’s many FCS victories.
Ohio drops to 2-9 in bowl games all time, and the Bobcats are still seeking their first bowl win since a 45-14 victory against Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. Bobcat fans everywhere will certainly identify strongly with this song over the next week or two in order to try and get over such a heartbreaking loss.