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.