No. 21 Appalachian St. seeks Sun Belt title vs. Louisiana

Field Level Media

December 04, 2019 at 12:45 am.

No. 21 Appalachian State and Louisiana are no strangers when they hook up again on Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.

The teams will tangle in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, marking the fourth meeting in a two-season period, with Appalachian State winning the past three encounters.

“Everybody understands what the game is about, it’s about who’s going to win the Sun Belt Conference championship,” first-year Appalachian State coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “There’s going to be some natural ‘want to get it done.'”

Appalachian State won 17-7 on the road in a regular-season meeting Oct. 9. The Mountaineers won the 2018 regular-season matchup and again at home in the conference championship game. Of those past three results, the 30-19 final in last December’s title game marked the largest margin.

“To assume the game will be similar in nature to the one we played previously would be a false narrative going into the game,” Drinkwitz said. “I think both teams have changed. … We played Week 5, so there have been a lot of transitions from then to where we are now, so we’re trying to create new opportunities.”

Appalachian State’s 11-1 record is the best 12-game mark in Sun Belt Conference history.

Louisiana (10-2), which won the West Division, has secured a school-record win total.

“Both teams have improved since that (first) game),” said second-year Louisiana coach Billy Napier. “At that time of the year, it just turned out to be that type of game. Both defenses played really well.”

This is the first matchup of teams with 10 or more victories in Sun Belt Conference history.

“A pretty neat opportunity for us as a conference,” Drinkwitz said.

The Mountaineers have won all seven previous meetings in the series, including four times at home.

Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas had a pair of 7-yard touchdown runs in the first meeting with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t lost since the Appalachian State game. That six-game winning streak includes four victories by 17 points or more.

“Our team has made improvement and we’re excited with the opportunity to win a conference championship,” Napier said. “We’re enjoying this process of getting ready. We’ve made incremental improvements over time. I think we’ve seen a lot of young players gain confidence.”

Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis has made 20 touchdown tosses. He has thrown his past 135 passes without an interception.

“They’ve got some big receivers who create some difficult matchups,” Drinkwitz said.

Both teams have 1,000-yard rushers, with Darrynton Evans (1,250) of Appalachian State and Elijah Mitchell (1,007) of Louisiana.

“They control the game with their run game,” Drinkwitz said. “… They’re not the same team we’ve played. I think they’ve improved tremendously since the first time we played.”

This is the second year in a row that the title game is set for Boone.

“We worked extremely hard to get this home-field advantage,” Drinkwitz said.

The Mountaineers showed in one game without big-play receiver Corey Sutton, who’s out for the rest of the season, that they have other weapons in their regular-season finale last Friday in a 48-13 win at Troy.

“What you try to do is spread out the opportunities to the rest of the team and see if other guys can step up,” Drinkwitz said.

Appalachian State is seeking to be the first Sun Belt team and the first Football Bowl Championship team from the state of North Carolina to win 12 games in a season.