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App State Holds Off Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns for 27-17 Win

By Tim Gardner

The Appalachian State Mountaineers survived an upset bid by Louisiana (Lafayette) Saturday in Boone’s Kidd Brewer Stadium to take a 27-17 victory and remain unbeaten in Sun Belt Conference play.

Darrynton Evans, who started in place of the injured Jalin Moore, who broke and dislocated his right ankle in the Arkansas State game, rushed for a career-best 183 yards on 26 carries and scored a touchdown rushing and another receiving to lead Appalachian State. Evans also ripped off a 65-yard run to set up the Mountaineers’ last touchdown at the start of the second half.

They improved to 5-1 over-all and 3-0 in the conference with the win, which came before 27,082 fans in attendance and an ESPN-Plus television audience. Louisiana fell to 3-4 over-all and 1-2 in the Sun Belt.

The stage is set for a first-place conference showdown for Appalachian State Thursday night, October 25, at rival Georgia Southern, also 3-0 in the Sun Belt as an East Division co-leader. The game kicks-off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

“When you’re teaching off of this kind of game, you love for it to be a win, and that’s what it was,” Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield said. “We’re setting ourselves up there at 3-0 in the league, right where we need to be in Sun Belt league play with a short week coming up. We’re already gearing up for Georgia Southern, and that’s on everybody’s mind right now as we head toward this (coming) week.”

The Mountaineers maintained a fourteen-point lead thanks to a defensive stand after Louisiana started a drive at the Appalachian State 32 late in the third quarter. Facing a third-and-2 situation from the Mountaineers’ 12 to open the fourth quarter, defensive back Desmond Franklin and linebacker Jordan Fehr stopped 221-pound back Louisiana running back Elijah Mitchell for no gain. When Mitchell took a handoff on the fourth-down play, true freshman linebacker Trey Cobb and Franklin again tackled him for no gain.

That series was part of a stellar over-all showing by Appalachian State’s defense. Outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither had a career-best 15 tackles with two sacks to lead his team in stops. Linebacker Noel Cook also had a sack in his 13-tackle performance as the Mountaineers limited the rushing attack from Louisiana to 140 yards on 41 attempts.

Appalachian State also forced defensive three-and-outs on six of the first nine drives by Louisiana, with linemen Caleb Spurlin, Demetrius Taylor and Okon Godwin also contributing in the sack category, and a fumble recovery by Fehr at the Rajin’ Cajuns 25-yard line set up the Mountaineers’ first touchdown.

“The defensive line did its part today,” Davis-Gaither said. “They played extremely hard like they always do. They cleared the way for us to play fast and read our keys and make the plays we’re supposed to.”

The defensive performance was much-needed because the Appalachian State offense struggled at times.

The Mountaineers entered the game averaging 48.4 points per game. Louisiana also had been putting up plenty of points coming in, averaging 34.8 per game. But at intermission, the teams had only scored a combined 27 points and the Mountaineers finished 21 points short of their per-game average.

Appalachian State’s normally powerful passing game was not nearly as productive as it has been in other games this season. The Mountaineers had just 106 yards through the air, and only sixty after three quarters. Quarterback Zac Thomas went 10-for-20 passing with one touchdown pass and one interception.

Evans ran for his first touchdown from 2 yards with 3:46 left in the opening quarter and Chandler Staton tacked on the conversion kick for a 7-0 Appalachian State lead

“The O-line was opening it up,” Evans said. “I’m saying, ‘If it’s going to be like this, we might as well just keep running it and keep running the same plays.’ The coaches, they had a good beat on the defense and were making great calls, and the O-line was moving people around.

“It’s always nice knowing if you do your job, the person behind you is going to do theirs. That’s kind of our motto on offense. We’re DYJ – we do our job. Especially as an offensive line, you can’t really control anything else. We just try to do our best at doing our job, and we’ve got some special backs in the backfield.”

The Rajin’ Cajuns capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive to tie the score with 41 seconds remaining in the first period when quarterback Levi Lewis connected with Mitchell for a 38-yard touchdown pass and Kyle Pfau added the point-after kick.

Appalachian State answered on its next possession to regain the lead. Staton kicked a 40-yard field goal with 13:10 left in the second quarter for a 10-7 score.

The drive covered 41 yards and took eight plays.

Louisiana came right back on its ensuing possession to tie the score again when Pfau kicked a 43-yard field goal with 9:02 to go in the half to cap a 49-yard; 9-play drive.

Appalachian State then reclaimed the lead at 17-10 with 2:11 left before halftime when Thomas hit Evans for a 20-yard yard touchdown pass and Staton followed with the conversion kick.

That drive covered 73 yards in ten plays.

The Mountaineers scored quickly to start the second half and increase their lead. Marcus Williams Jr. made a 6-yard touchdown run and Staton added the extra point for a 24-10 margin just 59 seconds into third quarter (14:01).

Late in the game, Appalachian State flipped the field by advancing to its 46-yard line before Clayton Howell booted a 53-yard punt that rolled to a stop in freshman cornerback Steven Jones’ hands at the 1. Taylor batted down a third-down throw to force a punt that enabled the Mountaineers to drive 47 yards in eleven plays for a 29-yard, game-clinching field goal from Staton with 2:46 left.

The Rajin’ Cajuns came right back to score, going 69 yards in seven plays to cut the deficit to 27-17 with just 1:03 left. Trey Ragas made a 27-yard touchdown run and Pfau followed with the extra point.