Ap­palachian State’s vic­tory in Sun Belt cham­pi­onship is a (Zac Thomas) scram­ble

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY RICK BONNELL rbon­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick­_bon­nell

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.

OB­SER­VA­TIONS

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.

WORTH MEN­TION­ING

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.