By Tim Gardner
Quarterback Zac Thomas passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another and running back Darrynton Evans rushed for two touchdowns and caught another to lead Appalachian State to a 48-13 rout of Troy in a Sun Belt Conference game in Troy, AL Friday night.
The victory ensured that the defending conference champion Mountaineers will host the Sun Belt’s Championship game next Saturday, December 7, at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone. Their opponent will be the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette– the second straight title game matchup for the two programs.
Appalachian State won the inaugural championship last season, a 30-19 home win, as well as this year’s regular season meeting, a 17-7 victory in Lafayette.
The Mountaineers have won at least 11 games in three of the last five seasons, including last year’s 11-2 team that won the New Orleans Bowl. But this is the first season they has won eleven regular season as a Major College Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program.
The Mountaineers exploded offensively, scoring 34 first-half points against the Trojans (5-7, 3-5 Sun Belt), who fell short of bowl eligibility. Appalachian State scored on its first five possessions. Wide receiver Thomas Hennigan set career highs for receptions and receiving yards by early in the second quarter, both of which he added to as the game progressed. He finished the game with 11 receptions for 140 yards.
The Mountaineers were equally impressive defensively, and had four sacks by intermission.
Troy opened the game’s scoring with a 26-yard field goal from Tyler Sumpter for a 3-0 lead, which was one of the few bright spots for the Trojans during the game as they were dominated on both sides of the ball by Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers (11-1 over-all; 7-1 conference) took the lead for good less than two minutes later (10:10) when Jalen Virgil caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Thomas. Chandler Staton missed the point-after kick, leaving Appalachian State up 6-3.
Thomas completed 28-of-34 passes and had only one interception.
Evans then rambled 52 yards for a touchdown with 6:25 left in the opening period and Staton added the PAT for a 13-3 lead. And less than a minute later (5:37), Thomas ran for a 5-yard touchdown and Staton followed with the point-after kick to boost the Mountaineers to a 20-3 cushion. The latter touchdown was set up by a Desmond Franklin interception that gave the Mountaineers the ball on Troy’s 8-yard line.
Troy running back D.K. Billingsley rushed up the middle for 1-yard touchdown with 1:13 remaining in the quarter and Sumpter followed with the extra point kick to cut the deficit to 20-10.
The Mountaineers answered the score with 12:40 to go in the first half when Thomas passed to Malik Williams down the middle for an 8-yard touchdown. Staton made the PAT for a 27-10 lead.
Then with 8:49 left in the half, Evans rushed up the middle for 9-yard touchdown. Staton made the point-after kick to push Appalachian State’s lead to 34-10.
Sumpter kicked a 39-yard field goal with five-and-a-half minutes to go in the half to make the deficit 34-10.
But the Mountaineers continued to roll in the second half.
They pushed their cushion to 41-13 with 9:14 to go in the third quarter when Thomas passed to Williams down the middle for 6-yard touchdown and Staton added the point-after kick. Thomas then hit Evans for a 25-yard touchdown strike just six seconds into the final period, followed again by Station’s converted extra point kick to complete the scoring at 48-13.