The Dollar General Bowl has all the makings of a high-scoring shootout between a pair of conference champions led by prolific senior quarterbacks.
Toledo, champion of the Mid-American Conference, will take on Appalachian State, co-champion of the Sun Belt Conference, on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
The Rockets (11-2) are averaging 39.0 points per game. They wrapped up the MAC title with three straight blowout wins, including a 45-28 rout of Akron in the conference championship game.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside threw four touchdowns in the win over the Zips, capping a dynamic senior season and prompting Rockets coach Jason Candle to call him “the best passer in school history.”
Woodside, the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, passed for 3,758 yards and 28 touchdowns with five interceptions this year. He eclipsed the 10,000-yard mark for his career this season.
Woodside’s weapons including running back Terry Swanson, who rushed 1,319 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and sophomore receiver Diontae Johnson, who caught 72 passes for 1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Appalachian State (8-4) can put up points, too. The Mountaineers bounced back from consecutive midseason losses at UMass and at Louisiana-Monroe with three straight wins, including a 63-14 rout of Louisiana-Lafayette in the regular-season finale.
Senior quarterback Tyler Lamb accounted for five touchdowns in the win. All four of Lamb’s touchdown passes went to freshman receiver Thomas Hennigan.
Lamb has passed for 2,606 yards with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions this year. He also has rushed for 539 yards, averaging 7.7 yard per carry, with five touchdowns.
Lamb has started 48 consecutive games, and he set a Sun Belt record with 90 career touchdown passes.
“The records come with great teammates and great coaches,” Lamb said this week. “Once you have that and you work on your game and put all that together, the records will come. But if you win a lot of ballgames, records will come, too. That’s what our (focus) was: Winning a lot of ballgames, winning conference championships, winning bowl championships, and here we are today trying to end it right in our senior year.”
Both teams feature successful young coaches, too.
Candle is 21-6 in his two seasons at Toledo and was rumored to be a candidate for several of the open Power 5 coaching positions. It looks as if Candle will be staying in with the Rockets for now, though. This week, he agreed to a contract extension through the 2023 season.
“The success of our program is the result of the unified effort of our players, coaches, staff and everyone in Rocket Nation who supports us,” Candle said in a statement announcing the contract extension. “To be a MAC Champion is a tremendous accomplishment of which we can all be proud. At the same time, we are even more focused on our mission of continuing to build on our program’s tradition of success. I’m proud to be a Rocket and proud to represent this great university and great city.”
Scott Satterfield has enjoyed similar success during his five-year tenure at Appalachian State. He oversaw the program’s transition to the FBS level and has the Mountaineers in a bowl game for a third straight season.
“The most successful transition from FCS to FBS of any school, I think, in the history of our sport,” Satterfield told AL.com “Now three straight bowl games and two conference championships, our program is at a big-time high right now. We have great administration from the top down. We’ve got great coaches and players that really care about our program, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to make this transition so successfully.”
The Mountaineers’ schedule was a bit up and down. Appalachian State lost two of its first four, including a 31-10 season-opening defeat to playoff-bound Georgia. The Mountaineers then won three in a row before dropping two in a row and recovering to take their final three.
The Rockets’ only losses were at then-No. 14 Miami in September and at Ohio in November.
Toledo faced six opponents that reached bowls this season, going 4-2 in those games. Appalachian State faced four bowl-bound opponents, going 2-2 in those contests.
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