Darrynton Evans

Darrynton Evans

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Two of Appalachian State's true freshmen didn't redshirt this year.

Clifton Duck, a starting cornerback, enrolled early and made the USA TODAY Sports Freshman All-America team last week.

Darrynton Evans made his splash in the postseason.

App State earned a 31-28 win against Toledo in the Camellia Bowl on Saturday, and one of the biggest plays came from Evans, who scored on a 94-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

It was the first college touchdown for the 2016 graduate of New Smyrna Beach High School in Florida.

"It was tough, from getting a lot of kicks at the beginning of the year, to in the middle of the year, teams started squib kicking it," Evans said. "I just wanted an opportunity, and today I got my chance."

Evans spent most of the season as Appalachian State's primary kickoff returner. An athlete who also spent time at running back and wide receiver, his offensive role increased when senior running back Marcus Cox suffered a leg injury early in the Mountaineers' third game.

Serving as the second-string back behind Jalin Moore, Evans had 37 offensive touches during the five games in which Cox was injured. Cox returned with five games left in the regular season, and Evans had nine offensive touches in those games.

He remained a dangerous special teams threat and broke through Saturday to give Appalachian State its first kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2012 Wofford game. Evans cut off a block from Jaylan Barbour near the 20-yard line, found an opening down the right sideline and stepped out of a shoestring-tackle attempt at the Toledo 47 before cruising to the end zone.

"I saw him out of my peripheral vision," Evans said, "so I was just saying, 'I've gotta get by him. I've gotta get by him. I've got to get my legs up and just keep moving.' Once I got by him, I knew I was gone."

Evans' longest return of the regular season covered 41 yards in a late-September win at Akron, another Mid-American Conference team. He had 199 all-purpose yards in that victory but topped out at 86 in league play, when he averaged 17.8 yards on his 16 kickoff returns.

He gained 124 yards on his three returns against Toledo.

"We started out and ran a little counter return we hadn't shown all year, ran a couple things early that I thought could set it up and give it a chance," App State special teams coordinator Stu Holt said. "That one, everybody just picked up their guy. Darrynton's a special player. He made a couple guys miss, broke a tackle and did what he can do in space."

With Cox finishing his college career Saturday, there will be chances for someone to emerge as the likely backup to Moore in 2017, but that's a matter for the future.

The Mountaineers might not have won the Camellia Bowl without a highlight-reel play from their under-the-radar newcomer.

"What a huge play for a true freshman in his first bowl game to take a kickoff back the distance for a touchdown," App State head coach Scott Satterfield said. "The future is bright for Darrynton Evans. We're going to find ways to get him the football."

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