For the first time in conference history, the Sun Belt Conference held a conference championship game. That makes Appalachian State (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) the first program in history to win the Sun Belt Conference championship game after topping Louisiana (7-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Appalachian State will head to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl as the conference champion.
Appalachian State’s defense forced two turnovers and added a turnover on downs in the final minutes to help seal the 30-19 victory over the Ragin’ Cajuns. After a tight first half of play, which saw the Mountaineers head to the locker room with a 14-6 advantage on Louisiana, the Mountaineers took care of business in the second half when it counted the most. A 20-16 lead going to the fourth quarter was increased to 27-16 with a Zac Thomas touchdown run of 35 yards. Thomas scored two touchdowns on the ground while having a quiet game through the air. Combined with 111 rushing yards by Darrynton Evans and the ability fo the defense to lock things down in the fourth quarter, there was no question Appalachian State was the best team in the Sun Belt Conference on this day, and this season.
This is the first outright conference championship for Appalachian State since moving up to the FBS ranks in 2014. The Mountaineers earned a share of the conference title each of the last two seasons before the introduction of the conference championship game. It has been a steady climb up the Sun Belt since moving up from the FCS, and now head coach Scott Satterfield has an outright conference championship to celebrate as the latest crowning achievement for the program.
Appalachian State will play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 15. They will face an opponent from Conference USA, with the likely opponent expected to be either UAB or Middle Tennessee. Louisiana is still eligible to go to a bowl game, but will have to wait and see what bowl game they will be attending.