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Appalachian State Kicks Off COVID Bowl Season In Myrtle Beach

Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas drops back to pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 21, 2020, in Conway, S.C.
Richard Shiro

Appalachian State and North Texas start the COVID-19 college football bowl season in the first-ever Myrtle Beach Bowl on Monday. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN.

The Mountaineers of the Sun Belt Conference and the Mean Green of Conference USA begin what's sure to be a changing bowl season. Appalachian State may have an edge, having played on Coastal Carolina's teal field earlier this season, losing to the Chanticleers 34-23 on Nov. 21.

This first-time bowl is also the first NCAA-sanctioned bowl to take place in the state of South Carolina.

The Mountaineers (8-3) are favored over North Texas (4-5) by 19.5 points, according to most sportsbooks. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Appalachian State is looking to keep its perfect postseason record intact. The Mountaineers have won all five of their bowl games since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision before the 2015 season. Last year, the Mountaineers beet UAB 31-17 in the New Orleans Bowl in Shawn Clark’s debut as head coach.

The key match-up to watch is North Texas quarterback Austin Aune will fare against Appalachian State's defense. The Mean Green led Conference USA in almost every offensive category, averaging 515 yards and 35.1 points a game, and Aune has thrown for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Mountaineers ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense by allowing 19.3 points while leading the league in total defense by surrendering fewer than 315 yards per game.

Appalachian State has its own talented quarterback too though, as Zac Thomas has thrown for 2,075 yards and 19 touchdowns this year. Still, Thomas has been sporadic and inconsistent at times too. The preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year has thrown 11 interceptions this season, nearly doubling his total from 2019.

Both teams bring momentum into the bowl matchup with Appalachian State coming off a 34-26 win at rival Georgia Southern on Dec. 12 while North Texas topped UTEP 45-43 on Dec. 11.

Appalachian State is one of four teams from North Carolina playing in a bowl game this season. The Mountaineers join:

  • Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30 (noon | ESPN)
  • No. 23 N.C. State vs. Kentucky in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2 (noon | ESPN)
  • No. 13 UNC vs. No. 5 Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 (8 p.m. | ESPN)
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Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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