ORLANDO, Fla. (Curebowl.com) – The mantra that App State leaned on to build a winning 2023 season was: Keep digging.
On Saturday, they kept swimming.
The resilient Mountaineers outlasted a stubborn Miami defense and a game-long rainstorm, forcing six fumbles and holding off the RedHawks for a 13-9 triumph Saturday in the 2023 Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
It was the Mountaineers’ seventh win in eight bowl games, and they celebrated by dashing to the large Cure Bowl logo and sliding and diving in the midfield wetness.
“I’m so proud of our defense,” said App State cornerback Nick Ross, who had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. “We wanted to be more physical than the other defense and create more fumbles.”
They didn’t – the Mountaineers (9-4) fumbled seven times – but they recovered three of Miami’s drops, including a game-clinching drop near midfield with 2:39 left. The 13 combined fumbles in a game-long rainstorm set a Cure Bowl record.
Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl MVP Joey Aguilar completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards, one interception and one rushing touchdown for App State. The Mountaineers fell behind 3-0 after Miami’s first drive but scored 13 unanswered points to force the RedHawks to play from behind after the first two minutes of the second quarter.
“I just get the ball to the receivers, and they make the plays,” Aguilar said. “In Boone, we practice in snow, rain, cold, wind, all in one day. The rain is just another factor for us to go outside and have fun and get wet.”
Aguilar’s 9-yard keeper with 4:46 left in the third period capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive, the longest of the game, to put App State up, 13-3.
Head Coach Shawn Clark and the Mountaineers accepted the winning trophy in their locker room after withstanding Rashad Amos’s record-setting game. Amos gained a bowl-record 180 yards on 33 carries. His 23-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter pulled the RedHawks to within 13-9.
But Lou Groza Award winning kicker Graham Nicholson misfired on the extra point, and Miami never got back into scoring position.
The RedHawks (11-3) played without starting quarterback Aveon Smith, who decided to enter the transfer portal following the MAC Championship game victory over Toledo. He was missed.
As promised, Miami Coach Chuck Martin tried both redshirt sophomore quarterbacks on his roster, but neither could make his offense two-dimensional. Miami gained 181 yards on the ground, but was 6-for-10 passing for 44 yards. Of that, 28 yards came on one completion.
“We tried to throw it, but we couldn’t hold onto the ball,” Miami Coach Chuck Martin said. “A couple times our quarterback dropped the ball before he could throw it.”
Miami generated some late-game hopefulness in the final 5:50 after getting the ball back at its 9-yard line. Six-consecutive carries by Amos produced three first downs and pushed the ball to midfield.
The RedHawks gave Amos a quick breather, and backup Keyon Mozee broke through another hole on the right side, but lost the ball on his way to the ground.
App State’s Nate Johnson recovered at the 42-yard line with 2:39 left. The Mountaineers then ran out the clock, snapping a five-game Miami winning streak.
“The last drive, I said now I don’t have to punt. I got four downs to get 10 yards,” Martin said. “Moze can break any run, but he didn’t finish the run. We were sitting in a great situation, but they got the last strip. Credit to them.”
The rain started Saturday long before kickoff, and from the beginning the game looked to be a conservative one.
Nicholson gave Miami a 3-0 lead on the first drive of the game with a 34-yard field goal, and App State gained a 3-3 tie on Michael Hughes’s 29-yard field goal.
Hughes’ 22-yarder early in the second period proved to be the winning points, and the fumble-fest was well underway as puddles collected on UCF’s natural grass field.
“We talk in our program that we can only control what we can control,” App State Coach Shawn Clark said. “We had to run the football. We had to throw the football some. There were times when there were nine guys on the line of scrimmage. Our kids weren’t scared of it (the weather).
“We just kept digging and got it done,” Ross said. “Proud of these guys. It was fun. I love playing in the rain.”
On any other night, sophomore running back Rashad Amos would have been a bowl MVP. His 180 yards on 33 carries set a new Cure Bowl standard for rushing, eclipsing the 145-yard performance by Northern Illinois runner Jay Drucker in 2021.
The fumble totals by App State (seven) and Miami (six) are now first and second in the Cure Bowl record book. The previous high for fumbles in a game was five by Texas San Antonio in 2022. In addition, Miami’s three lost fumbles tied a bowl record held by UTSA (last year) and UCF (in 2016)
The 22 combined points from App State and Miami made this game the lowest-scoring affair in Cure Bowl history. The previous low was last year when Troy State beat Texas San Antonio 18-12 (30 combined points).
App State defensive tackle Sebastian Hopper was ejected for throwing a punch following a brief skirmish in the third quarter. The altercation came following a missed PAT by Miami when the teams were tussling over a live ball.
THIRD VENUE FOR CURE BOWL
Saturday marked the ninth-annual Cure Bowl, and the Orlando Sports Foundation staged it for the first time on the campus of the University of Central Florida. The bowl has been played previously in Orlando at Camping World Stadium (2015-18, 21) and Exploria Stadium (2019-20, 22). The initial idea for the Cure Bowl came from a group of community leaders and philanthropists in the fall of 2007 when UCF opened its on-campus stadium.
RIBBONS FOR REMINDERS
The Cure Bowl exists to raise money to find a cure cancer, and Miami’s participation made for a nice fit. For several seasons, RedHawks players have worn various-colored ribbon decals on their helmets. Players pick what color ribbon they want, and each color gives awareness for a specific cancer. The colors are:
- Red (all blood cancers)
- Orange (kidney cancer, leukemia)
- Pink (breast cancer)
- Green (liver cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer
- Purple (leiomyosarcoma, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer)
- Blue (colon cancer, esophageal cancer)
- Yellow (bladder cancer, sarcoma/bone cancer)
- White (lung cancer)
- Black (melanoma)
App State honored the Cure Bowl cause by wearing a special logo on its helmet. Designers inserted a pink ribbon into the “A” on both sides of the Mountaineers’ black helmets.
Kroger delivered the commemorative pink game ball during a pregame ceremony. Miami was the third team in a regulation game to kick off a ball with pink laces – a request that was first approved by the NCAA for the 2021 Cure Bowl.
BRINGING TEAMS TOGETHER TO FIND A CURE FOR CANCER
- To date, the Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl has been a platform to donate more than $4.2 million to fund cancer research.
- Of the total donated at this year’s game, more than $1.2 million in grants have been distributed the UCF College of Medicine and their researcher Dr. Annette Khaled, head of the Division of Cancer Research at the UCF College of Medicine.
- FFVA Mutual presented a check to the Orlando Sports Foundation in the first quarter. A check of $35,000 was presented by FFVA Mutual President Alan Hair, Leslie Sick and Melissa Hide to Orlando Sports Foundation Executive Director Alan Gooch.
- The Orlando Sports Foundation presented a check to the UCF College of Medicine for $50,000. The check was presented by Gooch to Dr. Deborah German, Dean of the UCF College of Medicine, Chip Roberts, UCF College of Medicine Assistant Vice President for Development, Dr. Jane Gibson, UCF College Medicine Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Eric Eraso, UCF College of Medicine Communications and Marketing.
- SoftWash Systems also presented a check for $39,430.15 to the Orlando Sports Foundation. Based in Sanford, Fla., SoftWash Systems has a national network of more than 250 soft-washing professionals. Jesus and Jenny Gonzalez, Ted and Megan Michaelis, AC and Karen Lockyer and Renee Towene made the presentation.
- The Orlando Sports Foundation’s mission is to bring teams together to find a cure for cancer.
About Avocados from Mexico
Avocados From Mexico (AFM) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA), formed for the purpose of advertising, promotion, public relations and research for all stakeholders of Avocados From Mexico. Under agreements, MHAIA and the Association of Avocado Exporting Producers & Packers of Mexico (APEAM) have combined resources to fund and manage AFM, with the intent to provide a focused, highly effective and efficient marketing program in the United States. AFM is headquartered in Irving, Texas.
About the Orlando Sports Foundation
The Orlando Sports Foundation (OSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for cancer research. The OSF holds several events throughout the year, including the Cure Bowl, which is an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) college football bowl game played each December.
With the combined support of Central Floridians, loyal sports fans, and strategic partners, the OSF is further dedicated and committed to serving the challenges of cancer awareness and elimination, by invigorating the Central Florida athletic community thru its Cure All Stars events, supporting youth organizations with standards of benevolence, integrity, and moral excellence.
The OSF works with our stakeholders to involve the entire community to join us in our quest to bring teams together to find a cure for cancer. The OSF focuses on research because we all know we will have to continue to manage the problem until we solve it. We focus our efforts on cancer because it touches so many lives worldwide, cancer does not discriminate. Together, we can tackle this. Click here to donate
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a portfolio of collegiate sporting events nationwide. In 2023, the 33-event schedule includes four early-season college football kickoff games, 17 college bowl games, nine college basketball events, a college softball event and the inaugural Band of the Year National Championship, in addition to a new college gymnastics event coming in 2024. Collectively, these events account for over 400 hours of live programming on ESPN platforms, reaching 60 million viewers and attracting over 650,000 annual attendees. Each year, the portfolio of events features more than 20 Division I conferences and hosts over 4,000 participating student-athletes. With satellite offices in more than 10 cities across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.
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