By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State survived a scare at Louisiana Wednesday night, before prevailing 17-7 in a Sun Belt Conference tilt to move to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in league play.
The Mountaineers secured the win before 21,012 in attendance and perhaps millions more watching on the nationally-televised ESPN 2 broadcast when quarterback Zac Thomas made his second touchdown run of the game—this one from 7 yards—with 1:55 remaining. Chandler Staton then kicked the extra point for the ultimate tally.
The touchdown capped a 19-play drive that lasted longer than 10 minutes.
The anticipated offensive fireworks between Appalachian State and Louisiana (4-2 over-all; 1-1 conference) never materialized. Instead, they relied on their defenses to help their offenses capitalize.
Both entered the game with nationally Top-10 scoring offenses. The Mountaineers averaged 47 points a game (fourth in the nation), while Louisiana averaged scoring 44.7 per game through its five games, ninth-highest in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Appalachian State’s defense rose to the occasion several times, stopping the Ragin’ Cajuns in crucial situations. End Demetrius Taylor had a stellar performance. He opened the game with a sack, later helped the Mountaineers make a goal-line stand with a fourth-down tackle of Louisiana running back Elijah Mitchell on the Mountaineers 1-yard line with nine-and-a-half minutes left in the second quarter, and caused a turnover on downs.
Appalachian State held the Ragin’ Cajuns to only 123 yards on the ground.
Thomas and starting running back Darrynton Evans combined for 132 of the Mountaineers’ 196 rushing yards.
Appalachian State’s first two drives started inside it 10-yard line. The second resulted in points. The Mountaineers went 95 yards in seven plays to score first when Thomas ran for a 7-yard touchdown with 5:05 left in the first period. Staton added the conversion kick for a 7-0 lead.
Thomas rushed for a 4-yard gain on third-and-three from the Louisiana 11 for a first down the play before he scored.
Louisiana tied the score at 7 eight seconds before halftime when quarterback Levi Lewis passed to receiver Nick Ralston down the middle for a 14-yard touchdown, followed by Stevie Artigue’s conversion kick.
The Ragin’ Cajuns drove 94 yards in ten plays for the touchdown.
The Mountaineers drove 52 yards to take the lead for good on a 40-yard field goal by Staton for a 10-7 score with 5:36 to play in the third quarter.
With the win, Appalachian State pushed its all-time record against Louisiana to 7-0, with two of those victories coming in 2018. That’s when the Mountaineers beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 27-17 during the regular season and 30-19 in the inaugural Sun Belt Conference championship game.
Appalachian State will next play Louisiana –Monroe on October 19 for homecoming in Boone in another Sun Belt game. That game will start at 3:30 p.m.