A 23-yard field goal by Zach Matics as time expired lifted the Appalachian State Mountaineers to a 31-29 victory over the Ohio Bobcats in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Saturday night.
Entering the fourth quarter down 24-7, Appalachian State scored 21 points in a span of one minute, 56 seconds to take a 28-24 lead. It lost the lead, though, after surrendering a safety and a field goal that gave Ohio a 29-28 advantage with less than two minutes to play.
Starting from his own 21-yard line with 1:47 left in the game, quarterback Taylor Lamb drove Appalachian State 73 yards to set up the field goal. Lamb made the big play with his legs, a 32-yard rush into field goal range at the Ohio 27-yard line with one minute to go.
The Camellia Bowl shared a replay of Matics' game-winner:
It was a special night for Appalachian State, which earned a victory in its first-ever bowl game after jumping up from the FCS two years ago.
But it wasn't easy, as turnovers plagued both teams, especially Appalachian State early on.
From an offensive standpoint, the Mountaineers controlled the game. In the first half alone, they outgained Ohio 186-111 and grabbed a 7-0 lead after a 21-yard scramble from Lamb.
The Camellia Bowl shared the replay of the opening score:
The lead could have been more, but Matics, the night's hero, missed a pair of field goals.
While Ohio couldn't muster much on offense, punting on its first five possessions, a field goal with 1:20 to go in the second quarter finally got the Bobcats on the scoreboard.
But then the defense stepped up.
On the first play of Appalachian State's ensuing drive, Lamb threw an interception to Quentin Poling, who returned it 20 yards for a score, helping Ohio take a 10-7 lead.
The Camellia Bowl showed the replay:
The Bobcats weren't done. On the Mountaineers' next drive, the Bobcats' Tony Porter recovered a bad snap on the Appalachian State 23-yard line with 39 seconds left.
Ohio stretched its lead to 17-7 after a seven-yard rush by A.J. Ouellette to cap off its frantic finish to the first half.
Things were not looking good for Appalachian State, as the Athens Messenger's Jason Arkley observed:
The turnover woes carried into the second half. Mountaineers wide receiver Ike Lewis had the ball ripped from his hands by linebacker Jovon Johnson, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown. The Camellia Bowl provided the replay:
Ohio looked to have the game in hand, keeping the Mountaineers off the board in the third quarter. But Appalachian State had a lot of life left in it.
The Mountaineers pulled within 10 to start the fourth quarter after Lamb hit tight end Barrett Burns for a 17-yard touchdown. It capped off a 97-yard drive that the running game orchestrated, along with a 15-yard personal foul after a 3rd-and-7 incompletion.
Ohio gave the ball right back to Appalachian State, when Latrell Gibbs intercepted quarterback JD Sprague. A play later, the team was within three after Marcus Cox's 26-yard touchdown run.
Cox, who led a Mountaineers rushing attack that ranked sixth in the nation coming into the game, recorded 162 yards Saturday.
Two plays later, Mondo Williams intercepted Sprague again at the Ohio 47-yard line. A 36-yard rush by Cox put the Mountaineers in the red zone, and Lamb finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown toss, helping give Appalachian State a 28-24 lead.
It capped off a huge 1:56 stretch in which the Mountaineers scored 21 points. NBC Sports' Darin Gantt admired Appalachian State's resolve:
After an Ohio punt pinned Appalachian State inside its 5-yard line, Johnson brought the Bobcats within two with six minutes remaining when he tackled Cox in the end zone for a safety.
Receiving the ball after the safety, Ohio suffered a blow when Sprague went down with an injury on a second-down play near midfield. In stepped junior Greg Windham, who managed to convert a 4th-and-1 with a screen pass to Kawmae Sawyer that went for 33 yards.
It was Windham's 19th completion and Sawyer's fourth reception of the season, and it set up a Josiah Yazdani 21-yard field goal with 1:47 to go—and eventually Appalachian State's wild finish.
After the fourth-quarter insanity ended for Appalachian State, head coach Scott Satterfield admitted this was a new experience for him.
"I've been a part of football for a long, long time," Satterfield said, per ESPN.com. "I've never been a part of a game like this."
In the same ESPN game recap, Appalachian State defensive end Ronald Blair said the emotion of this win for the program will hit him on the trip home.
"I think on the way back to Boone," Blair said, "I'll probably cry like a little girl."
Appalachian State sophomore defensive back Latrell Gibbs took to Twitter after the victory to share his emotions:
On the other side of the comeback, per ESPN.com's report, Ohio head coach Frank Solich summed up how the game turned in the second half.
"They gave us a couple (of turnovers) in the first half and we took advantage of those," said Solich, whose program is 2-7 in bowls. "And we gave them a couple in the second half and they took advantage of those."
Even though turnovers are always a key component in determining who wins, just as important is when the turnovers happen. Ohio couldn't close things out when it had the lead late, and Appalachian State was able to capitalize.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.