App State gets bowl rematch with Toledo in Alabama

The co-Sun Belt champion Mountaineers beat the MAC champion Rockets in last year's Camellia Bowl in Montgomery

Members of the Appalachian State football team celebrate their team's victory against Toledo in last year's Camellia Bowl in Mobile Ala. (Marvin Gentry/USA Today Sports)

Last year’s Camellia Bowl matchup between Appalachian State and Toledo produced one of the most entertaining games of the postseason, with the Mountaineers winning a back-and-forth 31-28 victory in Montgomery, Ala.

The teams put on such a good show that another Alabama-based bowl has brought them back together for a rematch.

Coach Scott Satterfield’s co-Sun Belt Conference champions will play the Mid-American Conference champion Rockets at the Dollar General Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 23. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile with television coverage on ESPN.

“Since January, our players and staff have been focused on winning a championship and making it back to the postseason,” Satterfield said in a statement announcing the bowl matchup. “We are proud to have reached the top of the Sun Belt again and we’re looking forward to facing the MAC champion in a Toledo team that we are very familiar with. Our players will get to play in a different bowl this year and I’m sure App Nation will be there in full force in Mobile on Dec. 23.”

The Mountaineers’ first two bowl appearances were at the Camellia Bowl, where they beat Ohio in 2015 and Toledo last year.

App State is the only program ever to win bowls in its first two seasons after transitioning from the FCS level to FBS. It is just the second team to play in the postseason in each of its first three years at the FBS level — joining Marshall, which went to six straight bowls from 1997-2002.

Last year’s game against Toledo saw the teams trade scores, with the Mountaineers taking the lead four times only to have the Rockets answer right back to tie the game on each occasion. The winning score came with 5:14 remaining on a 39-yard field goal by App State’s Michael Rubino.

This year’s Dollar General Bowl rematch has the potential to be a high-scoring affair, featuring two of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks.

The Mountaineers’ Taylor Lamb, who rushed for 126 yards in last year’s Camellia Bowl victory, has thrown 27 touchdown passes this season with only six interceptions. Toledo’s Logan Woodside has thrown for 28 scores while being picked off only five times. The only other FBS quarterback with more than 25 touchdowns and fewer than eight interceptions is Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy frontrunner Baker Mayfield.

Toledo (11-2) ranks 11th nationally in scoring at 39.2 points per game and eighth in FBS in total offense at 509.9 yards per game. App State (8-4) is also capable of putting up big numbers, as it showed last Saturday with a 63-14 win against Louisiana that clinched a share of its second straight conference title.

The Mountaineers recovered from a midseason two-game losing streak by winning their final three games, beating Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Louisiana by a combined 121-30 margin while piling up 933 yards on the ground.

“The last month, our preparation has been the best it’s been all year,” Satterfield said, crediting his team’s seniors for making the transition to FBS so successful. “The last three games we played, it’s the best football we’ve played and the most complete games. Defensively, it set the tone over the last three wins, and our offense has been very solid. We took care of the football, created turnovers.”

The victory against Louisiana improved App State’s record to 35-9 over its past 44 games, the best of any Group of 5 team. Only Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Oklahoma have better records over the same span.