BOONE — Appalachian State has turned winning the Sun Belt Conference championship into a holiday tradition in the High Country.
The No. 20 Mountaineers the Sun Belt East Division champions made it four straight Sun Belt titles, including two straight championship game victories, with a 45-38 victory over visiting West champ Louisiana on a brilliant and crisp Dec. 7 afternoon in front of 18,618 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The Mountaineers, which beat Louisiana 30-19 in the inaugural championship game last season.
Appalachian State came out slugging to bury the Ragin Cajuns under a 28-7 avalanche of offense that Louisiana could not completely overcome. Appalachian State got touchdown runs of 58, 8 and 5 yards from game Most Valuable Player Darrynton Evans and combined them with a 29-yard run from Marcus Williams Jr. Daetrich Harrington gave the Mountaineers a 34-yard touchdown run, making him the third App State running back to reach the end zone.
The Mountaineers rolled up 219 yards of total offense in the first half and claimed a 35-17 halftime lead after scoring five touchdowns on five possessions.
“We knew they had not won a game after trailing,” App State quarterback Zac Thomas said. “That was our goal this week. Start off fast and make them play from behind and we maintain the lead.”
Louisiana was able to keep the game close with the passing game led by quarterback Levi Lewis, who completed 24-of-46 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Lewis found Peter LeBlanc for two touchdowns, one that went 37 yards with 25 seconds left in the first quarter and another for 38 yards with just 1:19 left in the game that brought the Ragin Cajuns to 45-38.
App State recovered an onside kick to preserve the win.
“They played really well,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier said. “I’m extremely proud of our team and how we competed in the game. There were several opportunities where we could have laid down when it went sideways a little bit. We made a few too many mistakes to be a champion today.”
App State, leading 42-24, survived a late third-quarter scare when quarterback Zac Thomas fumbled after being smothered on a sack. Louisiana recovered at the Mountaineers’ 12-yard line, but an intentional grounding call forced the Cajuns to try a 52-yard field goal, which fell short.
“I just got the breath knocked out of me,” Thomas said.
Evans led a rushing game that produced 267 yards by gaining 73 of his own. Harrington led the Mountaineers in rushing with 89 yards on nine carries, while Marcus Williams had 78 yards on just eight carries.
Evans gave credit to the App State offensive line for opening big running lanes.
“Today they did a great job of maintaining their blocks, getting to the second level,” Evans said. “In the first game (with Louisiana), we had a little trouble with that, but they did a good job maintaining their blocks.”
Thomas completed 9-of-17 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Appalachian State 45, Louisiana 38
Louisiana 7 10 7 14 — 38
App State 21 14 7 3 — 45
App—Evans 58 run (Staton kick)
App—Evans 8 run (Staton kick)
App—Evans 5 pass from Thomas (Staton kick)
ULL—LeBranc 37 pass from Lewis (Artigue kick)
App—Williams 29 run (Staton kick)
ULL—Mitchell 1 pass from Lewis (Artigue kick)
App—Harrington 25 run (Staton kick)
ULL—Artigue FG 53
App—Thomas 16 interception (Staton kick)
ULL—Bradley 2 pass from Lewis (Artigue kick)
App—Staton FG 35
ULL_Mitchell 1 run (Artigue kick)
ULL—LeBlanc 38 pass from Lewis (Artigue kick)
Louisiana App State
First downs 31 20
By rushing 12 16
By passing 16 4
By penalty 3 0
Rushes-yards 38-159 51-267
Avg. per rush 4.2 5.2
Passing yards 354 149
Passes 24-46-1 9-17-0
Avg. per att. 7.7 8.8
Avg. per comp 14.8 16.6
Total plays-yards 84-513 68-416
Avg. per play 84-513 68-416
Punts-avg. 3-44.3 4-43.8
Net avg. 44.3 43.8
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
Time of poss. 29:49 30:11
Third down conv. 8-14 5-13
Fourth down conv. 1-1 2-3
Rushing: Louisiana—Mitchell 18-85, Calais 8-49, Ragas 5-19, Lewis 7-25; App State—Harrington 9-89, Williams 8-78, Evans 19-76, Thomas 13-25, Williams 1-7, Virgil 1-(-5).
Passing: Louisiana—Lewis 24-46-1 354; App State—Thomas 9-17-0 149.
Receiving: Louisiana—Bradley 5-58, Jackson 4-80, LeBlanc 3-118, Williams 3-39, Ralston 3-18, Gossett 2-19, Pauley 1-14, Johnson 1-8, Mitchell 1-1, Bell 1-0; App State—Hennigan 4-50, Evans 2-63, Williams 1-19, Virgil 1-9, Pearson 1-8