Appalachian State scored on a pair of third-quarter fumbles — one off its own miscue — and Thomas Hennigan caught two touchdown passes as the No. 20 Mountaineers used a strong second half to defeat UAB 31-17 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night at the Superdome in New Orleans.
The go-ahead points came when the Mountaineers sacked UAB quarterback Tyler Johnston III and Trey Cobb scooped the ball and returned it 24 yards to break a tie.
It was the first game under coach Shawn Clark for Appalachian State. The offensive line coach was promoted after Eliah Drinkwitz left earlier in the month to become Missouri’s head coach.
The Mountaineers (13-1) have won bowls in five consecutive seasons. This time, they added to their school-record win total.
Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans scored on a 31-yard run when he picked up quarterback Zac Thomas’ fumble on a fourth-and-1 play and ran without any resistance into the end zone in the third quarter.
UAB (9-5), which also lost two weeks earlier in the Conference USA championship game, pulled even on Nick Vogel’s season-long 49-yard field goal with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter.
After Cobb’s touchdown, the Mountaineers struck again on fourth down. Thomas’ underthrown ball was wrestled away from a defensive back by Hennigan for a 27-yard touchdown play with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
Evans rushed for 156 yards on 19 carries. Thomas was 13-for-24 for 142 yards.
UAB’s Austin Watkins posted 10 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown, though he lost a fumble on his final catch. Johnston was 22-for-34 for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Johnston’s 25-yard pass to Hayden Pittman opened the scoring. It was 14-0 UAB less than five minutes into the game when Johnston connected with Watkins for another 25-yard scoring play.
Chandler Staton’s 34-yard field goal early in the second quarter put the Mountaineers on the board.
Appalachian State’s first touchdown came when a drive was kept alive after UAB was called for a personal foul on what was otherwise a missed field goal by the Mountaineers. Thomas threw 17 yards to Hennigan for the score.
Johnston returned to a starting role after an injury disrupted the UAB quarterback’s season, with his previous start coming on Nov. 2 against Tennessee.
This was the first-ever meeting between the teams.
—Field Level Media