By David Coulson
BOONE, N.C. — It was getting back to basics with a twist for Appalachian State in its dominating, 28-7 Sun Belt Conference football victory over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday afternoon before 16,124 spectators on senior day at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The Mountaineers (9-2 overall, 6-1 Sun Belt) kept hopes alive for a share of the league championship by bottling up the Ragin’ Cajun offense and punishing ULL with the running game.
“Our big thing is to make teams one dimensional,” said ASU junior linebacker John Law, who had six tackles and one of his team’s season-high six sacks. “It was getting back to basics, doing the small things.”
In one of its sharpest defensive performances of the season, the Mountaineers limited ULL running back Elijah McGuire to 43 yards on 16 carries and held the Ragin’ Cajuns to 42 yards overall on the ground.
Louisiana-Lafayette (4-7, 3-4) failed to score until the final minute and was hampered by converting just six of 17 third-down opportunities as App State won for the 15th time in its past 17 outings.
With little running game to rely on, ULL quarterback Brooks Haack (13-of-22, 128 yards passing) was under duress most of the day.
“They had to have one of the best fronts that we’ve faced,” said Haack. “They did some things on third down that they haven’t shown.”
The Mountaineer win denied the Ragin’ Cajuns the opportunity to become bowl eligible, with ULL needing to win its final two games, while ASU is pretty much certain to go to a bowl in its first year of eligibility.
Appalachian’s stunt and blitz scheme appeared to confuse the Ragin’ Cajun offensive line throughout the contest.
“We had a package in this week and they had a hard time picking it up,” said App State linebacker Eric Boggs, who was brilliant with three sacks and six tackles.
Senior defensive end stalwart Ronald Blair paced the Mountaineers with a team-high eight tackles in his final home game.
“On of our things (with the defensive pressure) was to make it easy for our defensive backs,” Blair said. “The coaches trust us a lot to execute what they draw up.”
Blair explained that he had received a pep talk before the game from Appalachian’s College Hall of Fame coaching legend Jerry Moore, who was in attendance.
“He told me ‘You’ve still got a lot of football left to play,'” said Blair.
On offense, senior Marcus Cox (22 carries, 78 yards) rushed for two first-half touchdowns and became the first Mountaineer to ever run for 1,000 yards each in his first three seasons.
Cox was rested with some minor injuries two weeks ago and looked refreshed as he improved to 1,069 running yards and eight TDs in 10 games this year.
Freshman Jalen Moore sparked ASU with 13 attempts for 104 rushing yards, including his 54-yard TD burst midway through the third period to push the lead to 21-0.
Moore had an App State freshman record with 244 yards on the ground two weeks ago at Idaho.
“We think we’ve got a really good one-two punch with those guys,” ASU coach Scott Satterfield said.
About 15 minutes later, graduating four-year junior tight end Michael Moll completed the scoring for the Mountaineers with his first career touchdown on a two-yard toss from quarterback Taylor Lamb (14-of-21 for 172 yards passing, eight carries for 36 yards rushing).
Appalachian finished with 402 yards of total offense, 230 of that coming on the ground.
About the only negative for the App State attack was two turnovers that stopped potential scoring drives in the first half.
ULL didn’t score until backup QB Jordan Davis broke loose for his 20-yard TD scamper with 57 seconds left against the Mountaineers’ second-unit defense.
The closest the Rain’ Cajuns came to points earlier was when Stevie Artigue’s 36-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half was partially blocked by Latrell Gibbs.
“I tell you, that’s just one you don’t feel good about, because you feel like your defense played well enough to win the game,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. “Offensively, we weren’t able to respond at all. We got down to the red zone and could not find any points.”
Appalachian was less than a minutes away from posting its third consecutive shutout after a bye week and three scoreless performances in one season since 1985.
“With the extra week off, we were able to work more on our opponent today,” said Satterfield. “We looked really fresh today. We were really dinged up prior to the Idaho game.”
And that win was satisfying for one other reason.
“We’re still playing for a championship,” Satterfield said.
With the App State victory and Arkansas State’s 52-28 win at New Mexico State, the Mountaineers will need to beat South Alabama on the road and get some help from Texas State at Arkansas State to claim a share of the title.