• 61°

Another conference title for Appalachian State

Mountaineers continue to roll, will Sun Belt championship

Louisiana-Lafayette defensive back Michael Jacquet III (11) tackles Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in the Sun Belt Football Championship on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Boone, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer

BOONE (AP) — Moments after his team won its second straight Sun Belt Conference championship game, Appalachian State coach Eli Drinkwitz continued to set the bar higher.

“It better be the Cotton Bowl!” Drinkwitz told fans on the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium when asked where he thought his team should play next.

Darrynton Evans scored three touchdowns and 20th-ranked Appalachian State won its fourth straight Sun Belt championship overall with a 45-38 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. Evans was named the game’s MVP for the second season in a row.

Zac Thomas threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns and Daetrich Harrington and Marcus Williams added touchdown runs. The Mountaineers racked up 416 yards on offense, including 267 on the ground — most of those in a dominating first half.

Drinkwitz set the goal of repeating as champions since taking over as head coach earlier this season after Scott Satterfield left for Louisville.

He kept a poker chip with him since late May, a symbol to remind his team of its goal this season. He pulled it out of his pocket after the game and thanked his players, saying “we asked then to keep the chip all year long and be motivated to do something that has never been done before. And this group did it. Impressive.”

The Mountaineers (12-1, 8-1 Sun Belt) accomplished something North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State and Wake Forest never have — becoming the first FBS team from North Carolina to win 12 games in a season.

Appalachian State defeated Lafayette 17-7 early this season on the road, but this one featured more offense.

The Mountaineers entered the game averaging 38.9 points per game and showed their firepower in the first half by scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions — the first three by Evans — to build a 35-14 lead.

Thomas got things going when he found Evans on a perfectly executed screen pass on third-and-15, resulting in a 58-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game. After defensive tackle E.J. Scott forced and recovered a fumble at midfield on Lafayette’s next possession, the Mountaineers cashed in with a 8-yard touchdown run by Evans. Then Thomas made it 21-0 when he connected with Evans in the flat for a 5-yard score.

“We just dug too deep of a hole,” Lafayette coach Billy Napier said. “It was 21-0 before you could look around.”

Thomas said it was important for App State to get a lead early.

“We knew they hadn’t won a game trailing, so that was our goal this week to start off fast and let them play from behind,” Thomas said. “We maintained the lead, so we pride ourselves on offense starting fast and getting points on the board. At the beginning we were 5-for-5 on touchdowns. We were just rolling, and no one could stop us at that point. Everything was working for us at that point, throwing, running it. It was just unbelievable to see that.”

Levi Lewis threw for a Sun Belt championship game-record 354 yards and four touchdowns for Lafayette (10-3, 8-2). But the left-hander turned the ball over twice, including an interception that returned 16 yards for a score by linebacker Josh Thomas in the third quarter that gave App State a 42-17 lead.

•••

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Mountaineers could eclipse a school record if they move up higher than No. 20 in the AP poll. Their current ranking tied a school record set earlier this season before they briefly fell out of the top 25 with their only loss to division rival Georgia Southern.

•••

COACHING RUMORS

Drinkwitz and Napier have been the subject of coaching rumors, and naturally both did their best to deflect attention.

“My family and I love it here and are very excited about what we’re doing at Appalachian State,” Drinkwitz said. “But at the same time I owe it to my family to see if it is something we are interested in. … But I’m not in any hurry to leave.”

Napier said he loves coaching at Lafayette, but he didn’t rule anything out, either, saying there is a lot of consider including quality of life, family and the people you work for.

UP NEXT

Both teams will wait to hear where they’re headed to play in bowl games on Sunday.

Comments

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday