It was only fitting that Marcus Cox iced the game for Appalachian State with a 10-yard run in the closing seconds to secure a 31-28 victory over Toledo in Saturday’s Raycom Sports Camellia Bowl.
Cox, the school’s all-time leading rusher, injured his left leg early in the season against Miami. He missed the next month and watched from the sideline as teammate and fellow running back Jalin Moore took over and rushed for a Sun Belt Conference-best 1,367 yards. Even when Cox returned, he slid in behind Moore, who was named the conference's player of the year.
But Saturday was Cox’s day. In his final game as a Mountaineer, the senior rushed for a game-high 143 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
In the first half, Cox picked up big chunks of yards when it felt like players on both teams, including Moore, were struggling to find a rhythm on offense. Midway through the second quarter, Cox took a handoff, broke a tackle and got the edge as he scored from 13 yards to put Appalachian State back in front 14-7.
The second half was more of the same. Moore continued to struggle and the Mountaineers continued to lean on Cox. Moore finished with 35 yards on 16 carries.
In fact, Moore was the team’s third-leading rusher. Appalachian State junior quarterback Taylor Lamb finished with a career-high 126 rushing yards and added a critical rushing touchdown on fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter. Lamb, who was named the Camellia Bowl MVP, also threw for 119 yards and a touchdown.
From a statistical standpoint, Cox has had bigger games. As a sophomore in 2014, he had two games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards, including a 250-yard, three-touchdown performance against Georgia State. In last year’s Camellia Bowl, he rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown as the Mountaineers topped Ohio 31-29.
But Saturday's victory will be just as rewarding. It was the perfect way to go out for one of the most decorated players in Appalachian State history.