After last week’s heartbreaker for Trojan football fans, fans of Appalachian State Mountaineers now look forward to making history.
The first-ever Sun Belt Conference Championship game will kick off in Boone, North Carolina, this Saturday when App. State (9-7, 7-1 Sun Belt) takes on Louisiana Lafayette (7-5, 5-3) in a winner-take-all rematch.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are fresh off a three-point victory over in-state rival University of Louisiana Monroe (6-6, 4-4), in which the Warhawks missed a game-tying field goal as time expired.
Things looked bad for Louisiana in late September after a 1-3 start with zero conference wins. But two of the four games came up against ranked SEC opponents in No. 18 Miss. State and No. 1 Alabama.
Louisiana rushed for 200-yards against the No. 1 team after Alabama had allowed only 111 yards on the ground per game.
With the toughest part of the schedule over after September, the Cajuns were able to claim a blowout win against Texas State (3-7, 1-9) that gave the team its first conference win.
Carrying a two-game win streak, Louisiana traveled to Boone and took on App. State in a 27-17 loss, almost identical to the score in the victory the Troy Trojans would claim against Louisiana, 26-16, a month later.
In late October, the Cajuns sat at 1-2 in the conference, but their season was saved on Oct. 27.
A 47-43 win over Arkansas State gave Louisiana the head-to-head matchup advantage and control of its path to the Sun Belt Championship.
Even the loss to Troy in November was not enough to derail Louisiana’s late-season comeback. The Ragin’ Cajuns went 6-2 following their loss to Alabama.
Appalachian State is fresh off a 21-10 win against the Troy Trojans. The Mountaineers have the best total team defensive statistics in the country according to ESPN, and have allowed the fewest yards in the country.
Ten total points scored was a season-low for Troy, the next best team in the Sun Belt and a club that averaged 31 points per game.
The only two losses for the Mountaineers came in the first games of the season against Penn State (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten) in overtime 45-38, and a 34-14 blowout loss to Georgia Southern (9-3, 6-2).
The Mountaineers looked to be in control of the Sun Belt until the stunning loss to Georgia Southern one week after being ranked in the AP poll.
The Mountaineers rebounded and did not suffer a loss again, securing a spot in the conference championship.
Louisiana will need to follow the Golden Eagles’ success to win its first conference championship.
Southern posted 277 rushing yards against the Mountaineers, something that the Ragin’ Cajuns are very capable of doing behind running back Trey Ragas.
Against Georgia Southern, App. state committed five total turnovers. Four were interceptions that came after starting quarterback Zac Thomas suffered an injury in the first drive of the game.
Like Troy, when fully healthy, App. State looks to be one of the best teams in the conference.
Kickoff for the first Sun Belt Conference Championship will be Saturday, Dec. 1, at noon in Kid Brewer Stadium.