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Appalachian State claims second straight Camellia Bowl thriller

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If the College Football Playoff games can be half as good as the Camellia Bowl, we’ll be in good hands this bowl season.

For the second consecutive December, Appalachian State won a back-and-forth Camellia Bowl, backing up last year’s buzzer-beating 31-29 defeat of Ohio with a 31-28 see-saw win over Toledo on Saturday night.

In what would be the theme all night, the Mountaineers opened the scoring on a 72-yard drive capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from Taylor Lamb to Deltron Hopkins only to see Toledo immediately answer when Logan Woodside found Michael Roberts for a 15-yard score to end a 75-yard march.

Midway through the second quarter, Marcus Cox put App State back in front when he punched in a 13-yard rush to close a 93-yard march, which Kareem Hunt later answered by way of a 26-yard rush to tie the game at 14 at the break.

App State again opened the scoring in the second half, this time a 13-yard Lamb rush, and Toledo again answered on a 4-yard toss from Woodside to Cody Thompson. Appalachian State immediately nudged back in front when Darrynton Evans raced the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 28-21 lead. Five plays later, Toledo knotted its fourth tie when Hunt found pay dirt for a second time with a 1-yard plunge with 43 ticks left in the third quarter.

The Mountaineers blew a scoring chance on their next possession when a fake field goal pass on a 4th-and-13 flew incomplete, but the App State defense held serve by forcing a three-and-out. Back in field goal range a second time, App State head coach Scott Satterfield made the sensible call by asking Michael Rubino to knock in a 39-yard field goal, which he did, giving the Mountaineers a 31-28 lead with 5:14 remaining.

Given a chance to break serve and take their first lead, Toledo could not convert a 3rd-and-2 rush from the App State 8-yard line. Rockets head coach Jason Candle briefly looked like he was going to try a make-or-break 4th-and-2 with the clock rolling under two minutes to go but accepted a delay of game instead. He will live to regret that decision; Jameson Vest‘s game-tying 30-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Appalachian State (10-3) accepted the ball with 1:42 remaining and did not give it back. The Mountaineers out-rushed Toledo (9-4) 297-127 on the night. Lamb carried nine times for 126 yards and a score while completing 14-of-32 throws for 119 yards and a touchdown. Cox rushed 22 times for a game-high 143 yards and a touchdown.

For Toledo, Woodside completed 18-of-26 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Hunt added 22 carries for 120 yards and two scores.

Toledo, App State deadlocked halfway through Camellia Bowl

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Toledo and Appalachian State are tied at 14-14 halfway through the Camellia Bowl.

In a see-saw affair, App State has taken two touchdown leads only to see Toledo tie the game each time. Taylor Lamb has hit 9-of-21 for 81 yards and a touchdown with four carries for 52 yards, while Marcus Cox has rushed 13 times for 90 yards and a score.

For Toledo, Logan Woodside is an efficient 10-of-13 for 130 yards and a score, while Kareem Hunt has carried 10 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. He is the only play to rush the ball for Toledo thus far.

Appalachian State will receive to open the second half.

 

Tennessee escapes with overtime win over Appalachian State

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Nine years to the day after Appalachian State cut down a mighty Michigan team in an upset for the ages, they aimed to repeat history deep in the heart of SEC country at No. 9 Tennessee.

Could David slay Goliath again?

For most of Thursday night, the answer looked like yes. The Mountaineers pushed the Vols into overtime but ultimately it was the home team who escaped with a 20-13 win in remarkable fashion.

Quarterback Josh Dobbs dived into the end zone on the first possession of overtime and promptly fumbled the football when clocked by a pair of defenders. Luckily teammate Jalen Hurd was in the right place at the right time and was able to dive on the ball for what proved to be the eventual winning score.

Appalachian State failed to even pick up a first down on the ensuing series and had their last-ditch pass knocked away in the end zone to let Rocky Top breath a collective sigh of relief.

But the game was in large part not about the Vols struggles but just how much the Mountaineers punched above their weight and showed they might be even better than last year’s 11 win campaign showed. Star tailback Marcus Cox rushed for 115 yards and looked like a regular in the SEC. The defense straight up dominated the Vols offense and limited them to just 127 yards rushing.

Appalachian State looked like the better of the two teams for most of the first half. They really made UT fans nervous by jumping out to a 13-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter and seemed to dial up the right play defensively to harass the Vols into two turnovers.

Tennessee appeared to regain momentum early in the 4th quarter however when Dobbs lofted a pass over the shoulder of Josh Malone, who promptly ripped away from a defensive back for a 67 yard touchdown that tied the game. The Vols failed to keep things going however, with a number of drives stalling out as the two teams failed to mount any serious drives to end the 4th quarter.

Ultimately, a few miscues in the kicking game may have proven too much to overcome for the Mountaineers though. Redshirt freshman kicker Michael Rubino missed both an extra point and a 42-yard field goal that would have given the team the upset win.

Still, while Appalachian State will head home to North Carolina with their heads held high knowing they can compete with a top 10 team, the win is bound to call into question all of the preseason love that Tennessee received in being picked to win the SEC East. Vols head coach Butch Jones is likely to hear plenty of complaints from the fan base in the ensuing days if things don’t improve significantly on the field from their disjointed effort in the opener. It won’t be easy to with a big test looming in Week 2 as the team travels to Bristol Motor Speedway to take on Virginia Tech.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the Vols is they won’t go down in history like that Michigan team from 2007 that was upset by Appalachian State. But it wasn’t for lack of trying on Thursday night.

Tennessee announces change to academic schedule to accommodate opener

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Tennessee students got good news Tuesday with the announcement they not only get to see the Volunteers football team return to action Sept. 1, they also won’t have to worry about any distractions.

And by “distractions,” of course we mean “class.”

The school announced there will be none of those when the Volunteers play host to Appalachian State in a game set to kick off under the lights.

UT athletics director Dave Hart explained the move in an email to the Knoxville News-Sentinel:

“I believe that everyone involved in the ongoing collaboration that led to this logistical conclusion feels good about the fact that we were able to meet our collective priority to not interrupt the academic schedule on that Thursday,” he said in the email statement. “We look forward to the exciting opportunity to represent our conference on the SEC Network to open the 2016 season on the first night in September.”

Of course we would be remiss not to mention that day of classes was not eliminated. It was merely moved to the end of the semester.

The question of whether or not Tennessee football is “back” figures to be asked quite often this offseason.

Changing the academic schedule for a football game can only be viewed as an indication the answer is yes, right?

Last-second FG turns Ohio into App. St.’s first FBS bowl victim

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The biggest — or at least most notable — win in Appalachian State history came at the expense of Michigan. While possibly not as historic, this latest victory will certainly register highly in the football program’s annals.

Seemingly left for dead through three quarters of play, ASU was able to right itself and roar back to claim a monumental come-from-behind, final-gun 31-29 win over Ohio in the Raycom Media Camelia Bowl. The win was the first-ever in an FBS bowl for the Mountaineers, and came in their first-ever FBS postseason contest.

Entering the fourth quarter down 24-7, it appeared that first win might very well have to wait until next year at the earliest.

A lightning-quick 21-0 run in the first three minutes of the final stanza, however, pushed the Mountaineers out to their first lead since it was 7-3 late in the second quarter at 28-24.  Ohio, though, scored five points — safety with 6:06 left, 21-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining — to take a 29-28 lead.

That set the stage for some late-game heroics for App. St., with quarterback Taylor Lamb running for 32 yards to put the Mountaineers in field goal range with just under a minute remaining and Zach Matics, who missed his first two attempts in the game, hitting from 23 yards out as time expired to give ASU its historic win.

App. St. outgained Ohio 427-272, with running back Marcus Cox accounting for 162 yards of the Mountaineers’ 303 yards on the ground.

ASU finishes the 2015 season, its first as a full-fledged FBS member, at 11-2, with its two losses coming against top-ranked Clemson in Death Valley and 2015 Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State.  Ohio finished at 8-5, its best season since finishing the 2012 season at 9-4.