Appalachian State ended its football season Saturday in a familiar fashion: with a bowl championship trophy.
Sun Belt co-champ App State (9-4) dominated Toledo, the Mid-American Conference champion, in a 34-0 rout in the Dollar General Bowl. The Rockets (11-3) hadn’t been held scoreless all season, and no team had been shut out before in the Dollar General Bowl’s 19-year history. Toledo had scored in the first half of its last 45 games.
With the win, the Mountaineers earned their third consecutive bowl victory. Appalachian State is the only program to win a bowl in each of its first three seasons of eligibility after completing the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision level. App State won the Camellia Bowl in 2015 and 2016.
The Mountaineers’ running game and defense Saturday served as the pillars of the victory .
Junior running back Jalin Moore powered through the Rockets’ defense for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He claimed MVP honors with the performance, putting a stellar cap on a season where he constantly fought injuries.
Moore missed two of App State’s games this season (against UMass and Georgia Southern) and missed pieces of others with a collection of nagging injuries. Still, after Saturday’s performance, he eclipsed e 1,000 yards rushing for the season and notched the first three-touchdown performance of his career.
“It meant everything sending these guys out with a ‘W’ like this,” Moore said. “I stressed a lot about it. I knew what was at stake. I just tried to play a perfect game for myself and for my boys. It’s kind of emotional.”
App State opened the game by using quarterback Taylor Lamb often on option runs. Lamb’s sweeps eventually helped to open the running game, where App State began to gouge Toledo with Moore.
The Mountaineers averaged 6.2 yards per carry. True freshman Daetrich Harrington chipped in 72 yards, Marcus Williams had 68 yards and Lamb ran for 45 yards. Moore had touchdowns runs of 7, 7 and 31 yards.
App State ran for more than 300 yards in its last three games. The Mountaineers gashed Georgia State for 323 on Nov. 25 and Louisiana for 357 a week later.
While the running game zoned in early, the App State defense continuously found ways to stymie Toledo drives. Mountaineers junior linebacker Anthony Flory’s interception halted Toledo’s second drive of the game. App State turned its corresponding drive into the game’s first score, a run from Moore with 1:13 left in the opening quarter.
Sophomore safety Desmond Franklin killed the Rockets’ opening series of the second half, snagging an overthrown Logan Woodside pass. The Mountaineers cashed in the turnover for Moore’s third touchdown.
The App State defense forced six three-and-outs, including four in the second half. The Mountaineers gave up 146 total yards, which was the lowest total for the unit since a 2014 game against Georgia Southern.
The Mountaineers picked off Woodside three times, sacking him four times and landing hits on a handful of other plays.
“When we get a little bit of a lead, that’s when we’re really dangerous,” Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said. “Once we get that lead and our defense has their bearing straight, the other team starts forcing the ball down the field and that’s when we get turnovers.”
Flory earned the defensive player of the game honors with his eight-tackle, one-interception performance.
Lamb, who eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing career mark, was named the offensive player of the game.
App State claimed the first two bowls in school history with victories of two points (31-29 vs. Ohio in 2015) and three points (31-28 vs. Toledo in 2016). On Saturday, App State avoided drama for a powerful showing and the school’s third bowl game title.
Appalachian State: It was an impressive performance for the Mountaineers, especially on defense. Even during the rare moments when Toledo would have some success on offense, Appalachian State always seemed to force a turnover at a crucial juncture.
Toledo: This was one to forget for the Rockets. The offense looked out of sync all night and Appalachian State’s running game methodically picked apart Toledo’s defense.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers lose several seniors, including Lamb, their four-year starting quarterback. But Appalachian State has firmly established itself as one of the elite teams in the Sun Belt since making the transition from FCS to FBS and that’s unlikely to change any time soon as long as Satterfield is leading the way.
Toledo: The Rockets will have a lot of rebuilding to do, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Toledo will have to find a new quarterback and rebuild its offensive line, which will lose four starters. The good news is 38-year-old coach Jason Candle is coming back after leading the program to an 11-win season.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Appalachian St. 34, Toledo 0
APP—J.Moore 7 run (Staton kick), 4:06
APP—J.Moore 7 run (Staton kick), 4:06
APP—FG Staton 29, 8:09
APP—FG Staton 23, 5:52
APP—J.Moore 31 run (Staton kick), 8:14
APP—Mal.Williams 3 run (Staton kick), 14:54
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Appalachian St., J.Moore 22-125, Harrington 9-72, Mar.Williams 9-68, Lamb 8-45, Lewis 1-10, Harper 3-4, Mal.Williams 1-3. Toledo, Swanson 11-44, Thompkins 2-11, Seymour 3-(minus 2), Woodside 5-(minus 31).
PASSING—Appalachian St., Mal.Williams 0-1-0-0, Lamb 8-16-0-131. Toledo, Woodside 16-29-3-124.
RECEIVING—Appalachian St., Lewis 4-67, Hennigan 1-29, Harrington 1-15, Virgil 1-13, Reed 1-7. Toledo, Swanson 3-26, Seymour 3-14, Fisher 2-29, D.Johnson 2-21, Thompkins 2-13, Phillips 2-(minus 1), J.Johnson 1-14, McKinley-Lewis 1-8.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Appalachian St., Staton 25.