Appalachian State’s victory in Sun Belt championship is a (Zac Thomas) scramble
On a day when quarterback Zac Thomas’ passing wasn’t of great help to Appalachian State, his legs sure were.
Thomas scrambled for two long touchdown runs in leading the Mountaineers past Louisiana 30-19 in the Sun Belt’s first football championship game. By winning Saturday, Appalachian State receives an automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl Dec. 15 against a Conference USA opponent.
Thomas, in his first year as the Mountaineers’ starter, was far from sharp in the pocket Saturday, and the Mountaineers offense got a slow start. But he took off for a 25yard scramble into the end zone in the second quarter for a 14-6 halftime lead, then a 35-yard scoring run early in the fourth.
Thomas finished 6-of-13 passing for 75 yards and no touchdowns, but ran for 59 yards.
Thomas’ roll-out throw in the flat with about six minutes left to running back Marcus Williams ended up a 34-yard gain to midfield, allowing the Mountaineers an extended drive while protecting an eight-point lead. That drive pushed the Mountaineers ahead by two scores late, on Chandler Staton’s third field goal.
The Mountaineers qualified to host the conference championship game with last week’s 21-10 victory at Kidd Brewer Stadium over Troy. This was the second victory this season over Louisiana; Appalachian State won 27-17 in Boone Oct. 20.
Former Butler High star Clifton Duck broke up a fourth-down pass attempt by Louisiana in the last two minutes to finish off the Ragin Cajuns.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Darrynton Evans: Might not have the power of some prior Mountaineers running backs, but he has filled multiple roles, including kick returner. He finished with 111 yards on 17 carries.
Staton: A reliable placekicker is a coach’s best friend on a sloppy day.
Tae Hayes: His interception deep in Appalachian State territory and return to midfield couldn’t have come at a more opportune time with Louisiana driving into the red zone second half.
All you needed to know about what a defensive game the first quarter was: Appalachian State led 7-3 despite generating all of 5 yards of offense and possessing the ball for less than four minutes.
Evans has filled in so well as the starter after Jalin Moore was lost for the season with a broken ankle. He reached 1,000 rushing yards for the season Saturday and his 97yard kickoff return was essentially the team’s whole offense first quarter.
How committed is Appalachian State to a sound running game? This was the seventh consecutive season a back has reached 1,000 rushing yards. In these day of college spread offenses, that’s noteworthy.
Thomas got away with a terrible decision in the first half when he threw the ball right into the hands of Louisiana linebacker Ferrod Gardner. Gardner dropped an interception with a lot of wide-open field in front of him.
It took until midway through the third quarter for Mountaineers to really utilize wide receiver Corey Sutton, one of their biggest offensive assets. He finished with two catches for 23 yards.
It was mild weather in Boone Saturday with temperatures around 50, but a constant threat of rain. Sure a lot more friendly conditions than the snow that covered the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium earlier this week.
Louisiana obviously has a lot of close competitions still in the depth chart: Eleven positions were listed as either-or between two players going into this game.