Appalachian State receiver Malik Williams passed for two touchdowns on trick plays, quarterback Zac Thomas caught a scoring pass and threw for three more, and the Mountaineers routed Middle Tennessee 45-13 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.
Camerun Peoples had a 63-yard touchdown run for the Mountaineers (11-2), which gave Appalachian State alum and former player Mark Ivey a victory in what might have been his only chance to coach his alma mater.
Taking over on an interim basis after Scott Satterfield left for Louisville, Ivey looked determined to make his lone game as interim coach a memorable one. He even called for a surprise onside kick in the first half. And it might have worked if Clifton Duck had not snatched the high-bounding ball a yard before it had covered the mandatory 10 yards for a legal touch by the kicking team.
That was about the only thing Ivey tried that didn't work, but Middle Tennessee (8-6) could not take advantage of it. Three plays later, Tae Hayes' interception and 27-yard return to the Blue Raiders 41. That set up Williams' second TD passing after he'd taken a pitch from running back Darrynton Evans on a reverse the threw to Thomas, who'd sprinted to the end zone after the initial handoff.
Williams first TD came after he caught a backward pass from Thomas near the right edge of the field and launched a 30-yard strike down the sidelined to Thomas Hennigan.
Thomas didn't throw his first touchdown pass until the final minute of the first half, when he found Henry Pearson from a yard out. In the second half, he hit Corey Sutton or TDs of 17 and 11 yards. He finished 15 of 24 for 177 yards and was intercepted twice by safety Reed Blankenship.