It was not exactly perfect conditions for this year’s Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl. In a game where half of the players’ numbers and names ended up covered in mud, the Appalachian State Mountaineers committed fewer mistakes en route to a sloppy 13-9 victory over the MAC Champions of Miami (OH).
The teams could only manage one touchdown each and three field goals between them.
Appalachian State Wins Mud-Laden Cure Bowl
The story of the game was the baker’s dozen fumbles between the two teams. Miami (OH) put the ball on the ground six times and lost three while Appalachian State fumbled six times and lost three. The worst part? Only three fumbles were forced. 10 fumbles were just because of the conditions.
All game long, both quarterbacks struggled with the ball at the snap and put it on the ground with botched handoffs.
Playmakers Step Up
Miami (OH) was down to its third quarterback in the Cure Bowl with Henry Hesson but he ended the day with just eight passing attempts for 16 yards. For the Redhawks, it was always going to go through stud running back, Rashad Amos.
The talented ball carrier crossed over 1,000 yards on the year for the first time in his career. He accounted for 180 yards and the lone Miami (OH) score off of a game-high 33 rushing attempts. As he was all year for the Redhawks, Amos was the workhorse in this one but it just wasn’t enough.
The Mountaineer Offense
Appalachian State leaned on its junior quarterback despite the conditions. Joey Aguilar threw the ball 33 times, completing 19 (57.6%) for 211 yards on the day. He did make one mistake, throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Aguilar added a crucial nine-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that later proved to be the difference in this one.
The Redhawks weren’t the only team missing a top playmaker on offense. Appalachian State came into the Cure Bowl without leading rusher Nate Noel. it was expected that they would lean on second-leading rusher, Kanye Roberts. With 10 carries and 48 yards, Roberts did contribute but it was a breakout performance by fourth-year back, Anderson Castle.
Heading into the game, Castle had only run the ball 33 times for 164 yards in five games in 2023. He led the way for the Mountaineers in the Cure Bowl with 20 rushes for 119 yards, his first career game with more than 12 rushes or 67 yards.
In addition to a 100+ yard runner, the Mountaineers added a 100+ yard receiver in Kaedin Robinson. The Appalachian State star receiver was the top target all year long and added to his big year with a 118-yard performance. He ended his 2023 season with 905 yards and 10 touchdowns via 68 receptions.
Anything can happen in a game with weather as bad as what they had at this year’s Cure Bowl. It was predicted that the Mountaineers would take this game but the conditions put a massive damper on the scoring.
For Appalachian State, the Mountaineers will be among the favorites to take the Sun Belt next year. Aguilar and Robinson will return but the interior offensive line will likely have to be re-tooled. Taking over for Noel should be Roberts but don’t be surprised if a transfer running back comes in to compete. Defensively, they’ll be fine. A few pieces will graduate but, as a unit, the Mountaineers will be fine.
In a sign of solidarity, there has been a flood of Redhawks who are electing to return in 2024, led by MAC Defensive Player of the Year, Matthew Salopek. With the MAC eliminating divisions, Miami (OH) will have to be an unquestionable force in the conference. With Brett Gabbert also returning, the Redhawks will have just about everything they’d need to make a run to repeat as MAC Champions. There are two Power 5 non-conference foes and Notre Dame on the schedule for 2024, so Miami (OH) will need all the veteran leadership it can get.