MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Appalachian State and Ohio swapped huge defensive plays, gigantic momentum swings and even clutch kicks. The Mountaineers simply struck last.
Zach Matics capped a wild Camellia Bowl with a 23-yard field goal on the final play to lift Appalachian State to a 31-29 victory over Ohio on Saturday night, capping a 17-point, fourth-quarter comeback.
“I’ve been a part of football for a long, long time,” Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said. “I’ve never been a part of a game like this.”
The Mountaineers (11-2) moved from their own 21 in the final 1:42 after rallying from a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter only to lose the lead again. It was their first bowl game since moving up to FBS.
Quarterback Taylor Lamb had a 32-yard scramble then handed off to backup tailback Jalin Moore several times. Moore had a tackle-breaking 15-yarder and a 6-yarder to set up the kick by Matics, who missed two earlier attempts.
Matics came in having made 13 of 14, missing only a 52-yarder. He was benched last season after going 1 of 5 but wiped away the earlier misses in this one.
“I was not going to miss that ball right, I’ll tell you that right now,” Matics said.
Satterfield agreed. “There was never a doubt that he would make that field goal and I think everyone on our sideline felt that way,” he said.
A safety and Josiah Yazdani’s 21-yard field goal had restored the lead to Ohio (8-5) in a game where the Bobcats scored two defensive touchdowns after a sluggish start.
“They gave us a couple (of turnovers) in the first half and we took advantage of those,” said Ohio coach Frank Solich, whose program is 2-7 in bowls. “And we gave them a couple in the second half and they took advantage of those.”
MVP Marcus Cox gained 162 yards on 24 carries for Appalachian State, which set a Sun Belt Conference record for wins in just its second season in FBS.
The Bobcats’ final drive was finished by third-team quarterback Greg Windham after an injury to J.D. Sprague, who had taken over for an injured Derrius Vick late in the season. Solich said Vick was only about “85 percent” healthy.
Windham came in on a third down and was spun to the ground short on a run. On fourth and 1, he dropped the ball and scooped it up before hitting Kawmae Sawyer, who scampered down the right sideline for a 33-yard gain before getting knocked out of bounds to set up the go-ahead field goal.
The celebration was short-lived.
Appalachian State had started its own fourth-quarter comeback with a 97-yard drive and two touchdowns in a 42-second span before taking the lead. Lamb hit tight end Barrett Burns for a 17-yard touchdown pass, and they hooked up on an 8-yarder a couple of minutes later for a 28-24 lead with 11:56 left.
That gave Lamb a school single-season record of 31 touchdown passes.
In between, Cox scampered 26 yards down the left sideline one play after Latrell Gibbs’ interception.
Mondo Williams then made a diving interception of another Sprague pass and Cox streaked through the middle for a 35-yard gain to set up Burns’ second score.
Dominated most of the first half, Ohio scored 17 points over the final 1:31. Linebacker Quentin Poling returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown 8 seconds after a 36-yard field goal by Yazdani.
Three plays later, Tony Porter recovered a botched snap to set up A.J. Ouellette’s 7-yard touchdown run for a 17-7 lead.
“It was just all falling apart,” Lamb said. “(We) came into halftime and really got focused.”
The Mountaineers had raced to a huge edge on the stat sheet, but not the scoreboard. They outgained Ohio 188-33 deep into the second quarter but led just 7-0 thanks to those two missed field goals and a failed fourth-down attempt.
Appalachian State players jogged to the locker room while a number of the Bobcats danced and pumped their fists. The roles were reversed by the end.
Defensive end Ronald Blair, who forced and recovered an Ohio fumble, said it would take a while for the bowl win to sink in.
“I think on the way back to Boone,” Blair said, “I’ll probably cry like a little girl.”
Editor’s Note: Sebastian Smith, a player for Ohio University with family in Washington C.H., caught three passes for 23 yards including a long of 16 against Appalachian State.