|New coach leads No. 20 Appalachian State vs. UAB in New Orleans Bowl|
No. 20 Appalachian State is back in the New Orleans Bowl for the second year in a row, and once again, the Mountaineers will be led by a head coach who wasn't in charge during the regular season.
For the Saturday game against UAB at the Superdome, Appalachian State will have Shawn Clark as head coach after Eliah Drinkwitz left to take over the top job at Missouri.
A year ago, Mark Ivey led the Mountaineers to a 45-13 win over Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl after Scott Satterfield resigned to move to Louisville.
Clark will look to keep the 12-1 Mountaineers on track.
"You can expect a football team that holds up our winning tradition," he said. "A football team that is tough and exceeds expectations, and a football team that stands together because in destiny, you rarely arrive alone."
Since the Mountaineers won the Sun Belt Conference championship game Dec. 7 by defeating Louisiana, Drinkwitz exited.
Clark replaced him, first as interim coach and then later last week as the next head coach. An Appalachian State alum, he had overseen the offensive line until this latest promotion.
The Mountaineers, who have won four straight Sun Belt Conference titles, already have 12 victories, the top total for a Football Bowl Subdivision team in the state of North Carolina. And for the first time in the New Orleans Bowl's 19-year history, a ranked team will be a participant.
"What these players built here, we take a lot of pride in what we do, and we expect to win every football game," Clark said. "We don't go anywhere to be second fiddle, so that's what makes us special. It's what makes us unique."
Appalachian State is the only school to win each of its first four bowl games in consecutive seasons, and now the Mountaineers look to tack on a fifth.
Appalachian State and UAB will meet for the first time in football.
UAB (9-4) lost 49-6 to Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA championship game. Now the Blazers are headed for their third straight bowl since the program was re-instated in 2017. Last year, the Blazers defeated Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Under coach Bill Clark, UAB began the season with a 6-1 mark and later won its final three regular-season games.
"New Orleans is an easy trip for our fans, and we are expecting a big turnout for what should be an excellent game," the Blazers coach said.
Dylan Hopkins has started the last five games at quarterback for the Blazers, who average 23.6 points per game.
This could be a good steppingstone for the Blazers, who have won back-to-back Conference USA West Division titles. Of the team's 16 players to receive all-conference recognition, 13 are eligible to return next season.
Blazers junior linebacker Kristopher Moll is four tackles shy of 100 for the season.
Appalachian State features running back Darrynton Evans, the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, and linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, the league's Defensive Player of the Year.
The Mountaineers average 39.4 points per game.
"Every year I prepared myself for this opportunity to be the head coach, and it's here," Shawn Clark said. "I can't wait to get started."
--Field Level Media