How they got here: App State

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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App State (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) is looking for its fifth Sun Belt football title over the past six seasons in Saturday’s Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game in Lafayette, La. The Mountaineers, who hosted Louisiana in the first two championship games in 2018 and 2019, hold the distinction as the lone program to win the conference’s postseason event.

App State has already secured a 10-win season for the fifth time in eight FBS campaigns and will be bound for a bowl game for the seventh-straight year. This is the third time the Mountaineers have reached double-digit wins during the regular-season (2015 and 2019).

App State opened its season with a 33-19 victory over East Carolina in front of a record-setting crowd of 36,752—a sign of things to come, as the Mountaineers set program and Sun Belt records, averaging 30,441 fans per home game this season.

A two-point loss to then-No. 22/24 Miami, 25-23, proved to be the Mountaineers lone non-conference blemish as the team added victories over Elon, 44-10, and future Sun Belt Conference foe Marshall, 31-30.

A 45-16 win at Georgia State in its conference opener set up a date with Louisiana that featured a pair of 4-1 teams that were receiving votes in the national polls. The Ragin’ Cajuns used four turnovers to secure a 41-13 victory—the team’s second-straight over the Mountaineers, who had won the first eight meetings in the series prior to the 2020 campaign.

The Mountaineers rebounded, handing then- No. 14/16 Coastal Carolina its first loss of the 2021 season, 30-27, via a 24-yard field goal from senior kicker Chandler Staton as time expired. The road win was App State’s first over a ranked opponent since joining the FBS in 2014.

Including that pivotal victory, App State has rattled off six-straight conference wins to close out the regular season, clinching bowl eligibility with a 59-28 win at ULM and its place in the championship game with a 45-7 win at Troy.

Over the past four games, the Mountaineers have outscored their opposition 151-31. Graduate student quarterback Chase Brice has thrown for 2,901 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season—with many of those completions to App State’s trio of super senior wide receivers Corey Sutton (876 yards, 7 touchdowns), Thomas Hennigan (705 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Malik Williams (776 yards, 6 touchdowns).

Sophomore running back Nate Noel (1,034 yards, 4 touchdowns) gave App State its 10th-straight season with a 1,000-yard rusher, while junior running back Camerun Peoples (764 yards, 13 touchdowns) paced the team with 13 touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker D’Marco Jackson compiled a team-high 103 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Junior linebacker Nick Hampton—with 62 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks; senior defensive back Steven Jones Jr.—with 45 tackles, three tackles for loss and five interceptions; super senior defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor—with 21 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks; and senior linebacker Trey Cobb—with 60 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions—were also key contributors.

A win Saturday would keep the Mountaineers unbeaten in three Sun Belt Football Championship Game appearances and would be the first win by a road team in the four-year history of the event. App State maintains an 8-2 lead in the all-time series with Louisiana, though the Ragin’ Cajuns have won the last two meetings in the 2020 (24-21) and 2021 (41-13) regular-seasons.

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