Appalachian State squares off against Ohio in Camellia Bowl
MONTGOMERY, ALA. >> Ohio and Appalachian State made sure they didn't get snubbed when this season's bowl bids went out.
The two teams ride three-game winning streaks into Saturday's Camellia Bowl a year after both teams were postseason eligible but didn't receive invitations. They left no doubt this time that they were bowl worthy.
"We always talk about in our program, How are you going to finish?" Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said. "That's what you're going to be remembered for.
"We've had a great season but people will remember this team on the Camellia Bowl and how we finish this game."
Winning would carry a little extra meaning for both teams. Appalachian State (10-2), a three-time Football Bowl Championship Subdivision champion, is playing in its first bowl game since moving up to FBS and could become the first Sun Belt team to win 11 games.
The Mountaineers stayed home for the holidays after their debut FBS season despite a 7-5 record. This time they lost only to No. 1 Clemson and Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State.
Nationally, they're trying to make a name for themselves at the FBS level beyond knocking off Michigan in 2007.
"We really want to be the first one to win a bowl," said Appalachian State end Ronald Blair, the league's defensive player of the year. "It'd be great looking down the road 20 years from now and being able to say that we were that team that won that first bowl game. That'd be incredible."
Coach Frank Solich has led Ohio to six bowl games in seven seasons but the Bobcats are 2-6 all-time in the postseason. They were 6-6 last season but didn't get a bowl invite.
"We all were really bummed out last year," Ohio safety Devin Jones said. "That gave us a little bit more motivation. That gave us a bad taste in our mouth."
Some other things to watch in the Camellia Bowl:
OHIO QB: J.D. Sprague will remain the starter though Derrius Vick has returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him the last two games. Sprague passed for 275 yards in a win over Ball State and was spelled by Greg Windham after getting hurt against Northern Illinois. "You could see one, you could see as many as three quarterbacks in this game," Solich said.
STAYING HOT: Both teams are trying to extend those three-game win streaks. Appalachian State has won by an average of 18 points since falling to Arkansas State. The Bobcats closed by snapping Northern Illinois's 22-game November win streak.
TOUGH RUNNING: Appalachian State tailback Marcus Cox has his third straight season of 1,200-plus rushing yards, gaining 1,261 yards this season. Freshman backup Jalin Moore racked up 244 yards against Idaho when Cox was sidelined with an injury. Ohio held Northern Illinois to a season-low 73 rushing yards in the regular season finale and is allowing a solid 157 yards a game on the ground. "Whichever team can get that running game going will have a great edge in this game," Satterfield said.
CONVERSIONS: Appalachian State is a threat to go for it on fourth down at times, converting four straight attempts and 15 of 23 this season. Ohio, meanwhile, has excelled at stopping teams on third downs. Opposing offenses have converted just 32 percent of their attempts (52 of 153), which leads the MAC and ranks 17th nationally.
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