BOONE, N.C. — A win in a first-place showdown with Troy has put Appalachian State one step closer to a conference championship.
For the second straight week, a title will be decided at The Rock.
App State clinched the Sun Belt’s East Division with a 21-10 home victory against the Trojans, and the Mountaineers (9-2, 7-1) will play host to Louisiana (7-5, 5-3) next weekend in the inaugural Sun Belt Championship Game. The winner of that ESPN game at noon in Kidd Brewer Stadium will receive a bid to the R+L New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 15.
Seeking a third consecutive Sun Belt title, the Mountaineers jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Troy (9-3, 7-1) in the opening 20 minutes thanks to Zac Thomas’ two touchdown passes to Corey Sutton and Thomas’ score on a quarterback keeper. In order, those scores were set up by Darrynton Evans’ 58-yard run from the App State 2, Caleb Spurlin’s recovery of his own forced fumble on a fake-punt completion for a first down at midfield and Anthony Flory’s recovery of a fumble forced by Austin Exford.
Trailing by 11 points in the closing minutes, Troy’s last chance at a comeback was erased by back-to-back sacks from Jordan Fehr and Chris Willis. Okon Godwin’s fourth-down pressure forced a fourth-down incompletion with 2:33 remaining, allowing Appalachian to run out the clock and begin its on-field celebration.
The victory improved head coach Scott Satterfield’s record at App State to 50-24, Evans had 108 rushing yards to surpass 100 for the fifth time in Sun Belt play and Sutton finished with 72 yards on his five receptions.
Defensively, Elijah Diarrassouba also had a sack for a group that was led by Akeem Davis-Gaither’s 14 tackles, and Clifton Duck’s 12th career interception accounted for one of four forced turnovers. Wide receiver Thomas Hennigan recorded his first career interception on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half, and the Mountaineers limited Troy to 62 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
After Demetrius Taylor’s sack triggered a three-and-out on Troy’s second possession, the Trojans downed a 70-yard punt at the 2, but Evans bounced out to the right on his first-down carry and sprinted down the sideline to the Troy 40. Five players later, Sutton caught a pass streaking across the middle and snuck into the left side of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
Facing a fourth-and-3 from its 39 on the next series, Troy punter Tyler Sumpter completed a 10-yard pass to Blace Brown, but Spurlin ripped the ball away near the sideline before Brown went to the ground. A video review overturned the on-field call of no fumble, and Thomas had a hand in a trio of third-down conversions before he found Sutton in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Another video review overturned the on-field call, this time confirming that Sutton managed to get one foot down in the end zone before going out the back of it.
Troy completed a pass for 10 yards on the first play of its next drive, but Exford ripped from ball free from behind as the pile moved forward, and Flory picked up the fumble at the Troy 36. A whistle blew the play dead, and a video review reversed that on-field call of no fumble. After Sutton drew a penalty for pass interference in the end zone, Thomas raced into the end zone from the 10 to help establish a 21-0 lead with 11:09 remaining in the second quarter.
Troy got on the board with a 26-yard field goal midway through the second quarter and cut its deficit to 21-10 on Sawyer Smith’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Deondre Douglas with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter. Duck’s interception ended a Troy drive at the App State 41 later in the third quarter, and the Mountaineers chewed up more than eight minutes with a drive that started the fourth quarter.