Running back Darrynton Evans scored three touchdowns as No. 21 Appalachian State repeated as Sun Belt Conference champion by defeating visiting Louisiana 45-38 in the league title game Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
Quarterback Zac Taylor threw for two touchdowns as the Mountaineers built a big early lead and were never seriously threatened until the Ragin' Cajuns scored two touchdowns in the final 4:18, but an onside kick after the final score went out of bounds.
Appalachian State (12-1) is the first Sun Belt Conference team to reach the 12-win mark.
The Mountaineers played the title game at home for the second year in a row, coming up with the same result against Louisiana (10-3), which was unable to add to its school-record win total but will have another chance in a bowl.
Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis threw for four touchdowns and was intercepted once. He completed 24 of 46 passes for 354 yards, hitting Peter LeBlanc for a 38-yard score with 1:19 left.
Evans rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and gained 63 yards on two catches, both going for scores.
Appalachian State won a regular-season matchup at Louisiana in October by a score of 17-7, but the Mountaineers exceeded that point total in a hurry. They led 21-0 less than 14 minutes into the game.
Taylor's 58-yard pass play to Evans started the scoring to complete a game-opening 75-yard drive that took less than two minutes. Evans ran in from 8 yards for the next touchdown.
Thomas threw to Evans for a 5-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
The Mountaineers also received second-quarter touchdown runs from Marcus Williams from 29 yards and Daetrich Harrington from 25 yards.
Louisiana's Stevie Artigue kicked a 53-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half to cut the lead to 35-17. Appalachian State then tacked on another touchdown on Josh Thomas' 15-yard interception return in the third quarter.
Lewis threw touchdowns of 37 and 38 yards to LeBlanc, 1 yard to Elijah Mitchell and 2 yards to Ja'Marcus Bradley. Mitchell also gained 85 rushing yards on 18 attempts with a 1-yard touchdown run.
This was the first Sun Belt game with two teams holding double-digit win totals.
--Field Level Media