Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl: Appalachian State vs Miami (OH)
By Simon Carroll
Welcome to Bowl Season! 84 teams, 42 matchups, 35 different cities; if you thought the College Football postseason was restricted to the four teams in the playoffs, think again. In this game preview, we turn our attention to the Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl:
Where and When
Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl
Location: FBC Motgage Stadium, Orlando, FL
Date: 16th December 2023
Time: 3:30pm (ET)
The Story So Far...
The Cure Bowl has been a staple fixture of bowl season since 2015, it’s name designed to promote awareness and research of breast cancer. Despite being considered one of the smaller bowl games on the schedule, the Cure Bowl pays out more than half a million dollars in prize money, and makes a lot more than that for it’s cause. Traditionally, this bowl game would feature a matchup between teams from the Sun Belt and American Conferences – but this season it is the Sun Belt and MAC that will send representatives to the marquee matchup…
2023 will be the first time that App State has participated in the Cure Bowl. Since they became an FBS program in 2014, the Mountaineers have never had a losing season, and have been to seven bowl games – winning six of them. This season was head coach Shawn Clark’s fourth at the helm, where he led App State to the Sun Belt title game, falling to Troy. Quite simply, this football team delivers consistent success despite their relative infancy – and they don’t mail it in when it comes to postseason performance.
Much like their opponent, Miami – the Ohio version – also make their Cure Bowl debut. The RedHawks have a much longer history at this level of football, having been in the Mid-American Conference for 85 years. The last ten of those seasons have been under the stewardship of Chuck Martin, who led Miami to a second MAC title of his tenure this season. The team’s 11 wins in 2023 represents the highest number of RedHawks victories in the last 20 years – it’s fair to say this team arrives in Orlando ready to cap off an incredible year.
App State quarterback Joey Aguilar has had to wait to make his mark in college football, having played at Diablo Valley Community College, CA, before arriving at Boone. The journey across the country was worth it, as Aguilar had a remarkable debut season with the Mountaineers, being named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year. Aguilar tore up defenses, recording 3,500 yards passing and 33 touchdowns. Considering the lack of experience at this level, it was relatively mistake-free too, with just 9 picks across 13 games. Aguilar will no doubt be relishing the experience of his first bowl game, before donning the black and yellow in 2024 for his senior year.
The QB situation on the other sidelines is much more murky. Miami’s Brett Gabbert suffered a season ending injury back in November, and was replaced by Aveon Smith. Smith performed admirably in Gabbert’s absence. leading the RedHawks to the conference title. Unfortunately for Chuck Martin and his staff, Smith entered the transfer portal less than 48 hours after beating Toledo in Detroit. That likely means that redshirt sophomore Henry Hesson starts in the Cure Bowl, a quarterback with two passes on his college football CV.
Prospects To Watch
The Cure Bowl might not be a hotbed of future NFL talent in 2023, but there are a pair of names worth monitoring…
At the time of writing, Miami edge rusher Brian Ugwu looks set to participate in the Mexican avocado matchup. A two year starter in Oxford after transferring from Rutgers, Ugwu has been a consistent backfield menace, recording 13 sacks in 26 games. 6’3″ and 250lbs, Ugwu is long and lean, and looks the ideal candidate to be a third down designated pass rusher at the next level – with significant upside to carve out a bigger role on defense from there.
For App State, slot receiver Dashaun Davis didn’t really kick on and have the final season I was hoping to see from the diminuitive dynamo, so I’ll focus on an offensive lineman instead; Bucky Williams, a 6’3″, 300lb guard has turned heads with his dominant all-round game – grading out as the best run blocker in the Sun Belt in 2022, and allowing just one sack that season too. Williams, who spent the early part of his college career at Austin Peay before transferring to Boone, doubled down with another stellar season this year. He’s started 59 straight games across the two schools, showing durability and reliability in abundance.
If both teams entered the Cure Bowl with a battle-tested quarterback, then this would be a close game. Sadly, that isn’t the case for the RedHawks. App State live for bowl season, and will want to bounce back from the only postseason loss in their short history last year. I see the Mountaineers getting up early in this one via the arm of Aguilar, and never really taking their foot off Miami’s throats.
App State 38 – 10 Miami (OH)
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.