The 2023 Cure Bowl was won by the Appalachian State Mountaineers (9-5 overall, Sun Belt Conference) who triumphed 13-9 over the Miami RedHawks (11-3 overall, Mid-American Conference) in an absolute monsoon on Saturday afternoon. The rain dominated play through the entire game, arguably more than the players did. The wind increased as the game went on and the rain never let up. The offenses paid the price and no exchange was safe.
There were 12 fumbles in this game, with five changing possession. Add in one interception and you get a mess. The interception came on the first play from scrimmage when Yahsyn McKee intercepted a Joey Aguilar pass. The good field position turned into a field goal for Miami and they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.
It seemed exactly like a game that was set up for Miami to win. On top of having an excellent defense, the elements were going to give App State’s high-flying passing offense new challenges. Groza Award-winning kicker Graham Nicholson was able to convert an early field goal attempt into points and none of the weapons that Miami had coming into the game were compromised.
At least early in the game App State was able to move the ball through the air and answered on their next drive. They threw four passes for two completions and 57 yards. Their kicker, Michael Hughes, had an excellent season and tied the game at three apiece with a 29-yard make.
Miami’s limitations on offense became obvious from this point on in the game. Some of the problems were self-inflicted. Their kick return unit did a great job for the entire game getting their offense good field position, this time they started at their own 41. The RedHawks were able to move the ball inside the App State 40-yard line, but a one-yard loss on first down created a passing situation that they couldn’t overcome. Henry Hesson got his first career start for the RedHawks and was sacked on second-and-11 and they punted two a play later.
App State converted a third-and-23 with a 26-yard rush by Anderson Castle and moved into field goal territory early in the second quarter. The 22-yard field goal gave the Mountaineers a 6-3 lead that would last until halftime.
In that time the elements would really set in.
Miami’s next drive would end with a fumble at midfield by running back Rashad Amos. Miami gave Maddox Klopp two series at quarterback and there were three fumbles by the Miami offense. Klopp fumbled the ball just dropping back to pass and he and Amos mishandled the handoff twice, once ended up in App State’s possession.
App State was busy getting forced off the field on fourth-down conversions. Twice they attempted to run the ball into the teeth of the Miami defense and each time were turned back. Both plays were inside the twenty and could have been field goal attempts. Normally, aggression is typically rewarded in these situations, but in the conditions they found themselves in, it wasn’t a given that either team would get into the redzone again. The field goal is more treacherous than most plays, but handoffs weren’t even safe. A field goal attempt would have been a dependable choice.
The rain came down and bands marched on the field all through halftime and the teams came out to a field that was in terrible condition.
Appalachian State flipped the script on Miami on their opening possession and ran the ball eight times for 57 yards and a touchdown. They weren’t supposed to be able to do that against this defense, but that touchdown ended up being the deciding points.
Miami would capitalize on a drive that started with a fumble recovery two drives later. Miami started on the App State 23-yard line and scored immediately on a textbook explosive run by Amos. He came around the right corner untouched all the way to the endzone. There was a bad snap on the extra point and for the second time of the day, a fight broke out between a MAC team and a Sun Belt team. Ohio and Georgia Southern got a little bit chippy in the first half of their game, and App State had a player ejected after the botched extra point.
Down by four, the Miami RedHawks needed a touchdown. Their final two drives were great opportunities that didn’t pan out. Miami started with the ball at the App State 49-yard line and went three and out. Three rushes yielded four yards and it wasn’t quite time to go for it. Their last drive turned into a good drive with solid momentum despite starting at their own nine yard line. With five minutes left in the game and no ability to pass, Miami went with their hurry up offense. They ran the ball eight times to get to the App State 46 for a third-and-two attempt. Running back Keyon Mozee, spelling Rashad Amos, converted the run but fumbled the ball for the 12th—and final— time in the game. App State came up with a clear recovery with just over two minutes remaining.
App State was able to stay on the ground and kill the clock from that point on. Aguilar finished 211 passing yards despite the elements (and some bad drops) and their backup running back Anderson Castle finished with 119 yards on 20 carries.
Miami only attempted ten passes, with Rashad Amos exploded for 180 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. He also lost two fumbles. Matt Salopek and MAC Defensive Player of the Year was all over the field and making plays on fourth down.