BOONE, N.C. (AP) — Zac Thomas had two long touchdown runs, Darrynton Evans set up another score with a 97-yard kickoff return and Appalachian State defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 30-19 in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Saturday.
The victory earns the Mountaineers (10-2) the conference’s automatic berth in the New Orleans bowl on Dec. 15 against a team from Conference USA.
ULL took a 3-0 lead when Kyle Pfau’s 37-yard field capped a nine-play, 55-yard game-opening drive. The lead lasted 17 seconds. Evans took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards before being tackled at the 1-yard line and Marcus Williams Jr. ran it in one play later for a 7-3 lead. Pfau’s second field goal — from 45 yards out — pulled the Ragin’ Cajuns within 7-6, but Thomas ripped off a 25-yard TD run to end a nine-play, 75-yard drive and the Mountaineers (10-2) took a 14-6 lead into halftime.
Chandler Staton kicked a 42-yard field goal on the Appalachian State’s first possession of the second half for a 17-6 lead, but the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-6) answered with 10 straight points — Andre Nunez’s 8-yard TD run and Pfau’s 23-yard field goal — to pull within 17-16. Staton’s second field goal — a 42-yarder — on the last play of the third quarter pushed the Mountaineers lead to 20-16. Appalachian State made it a two-score game on Thomas’ 35-yard TD run after a Tae Hayes interception and 32-yard return gave the Mountaineers the ball at the ULL 44-yard line. Pfau added his fourth field goal of the game and Staton booted his third of the second half to cap the scoring.
Evans rushed for 111 of the Mountaineers’ 225 yards on the ground. Evans passed for 75 yards and ran for 59 more.