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No. 20 La.-Lafayette Tops App St. 24-16 for Sun Belt Title | Sports News

By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Billy Napier took his time strolling off of Cajun discipline, soaking within the celebration of a league championship, and at instances wiping his eyes, after his remaining sport as coach at Louisiana-Lafayette earlier than he takes over the Florida Gators.

Levi Lewis scored on a career-high 56-yard run and handed for one other landing, and No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette defeated Appalachian State 24-16 on Saturday within the Sun Belt Conference championship sport.

“I feel like we’ve been chasing this thing down for a long time,” said Napier, who coached the Ragin’ Cajuns to four straight Sun Belt West Division titles and lost the conference’s first two championship games and had the 2020 title game canceled because of the pandemic.

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Napier was hired by Florida last weekend to fill the vacancy created by the firing of Dan Mullen, but he insisted on being able to coach for the Cajuns in their conference title game before leaving the team to move on to its bowl game without him.

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“Nothing’s more important to me than doing the job for the players on this team, and you’ve got to compliment the players for their ability to focus,” Napier said. “Our team was well prepared. There’s no question. We executed our plan tonight.”

Emani Baily rushed for 117 yards, highlighted by his 35-yard landing run on a third-and-9 play to offer the Cajuns a two-touchdown lead early within the fourth quarter.

Lewis handed for 210 yards with out a turnover and completed with 43 internet yards speeding as Louisiana-Lafayette (12-1, 9-0 Sun Belt) lengthened its school-record successful streak to 12 video games.

(*20*) Lewis, a fifth-year senior and three 12 months starter, mentioned of successful the league title. ““I’m going to go home and just go cry. … It’s been a long time coming to win this championship.”

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Cameron Peoples ran for a 43-yard landing within the first half for Appalachian State (10-3, 7-2), however the Mountaineers’ offense struggled to match its regular manufacturing.

Appalachian State QB Chase Brice, who averaged 241.8 yards passing per sport in the course of the common season, accomplished 12 of 30 passes for 119 yards and was sacked thrice — twice by Cajuns defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill.

The solely time this season that Appalachian State scored fewer than 16 factors was a 41-13 loss at Cajun Field in October.

Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark famous that the Cajun protection was capable of cease the run whereas taking part in two deep safeties, including that when an opponent can do this, “it’s going to be a long day.”

But Brice scrambled for a number of first downs and saved the Mountaineers’ hopes alive within the fourth quarter when he rolled out on fourth-and-10 and linked over the center with Thomas Hennigan, who slipped tacklers to get into the tip zone. The Mountaineers then went for two however the Cajuns pressured Brice into an errant throw.

App State acquired the ball again as soon as extra at its personal 35-yard line, down eight with 29 seconds left, however outdoors linebacker Chauncey Manac stripped Brice close to mid-field and recovered the fumble to seal the victory.

“It was a great football game,” mentioned Clark, complimenting each his personal group’s effort and the Cajuns’ execution. “We simply couldn’t get into the rhythm that we’re used to.”

Lewis made a number of large throws on the sport’s opening sequence to offer the Cajuns an early lead, beginning together with his 35-yard completion to Peter LeBlanc on third-and-7. Lewis saved the drive going with a 10-yard completion to Dontae Fleming whereas scrambling to his left on fourth-and-3. That arrange Lewis’ 27-yard scoring strike over the center to Michael Jefferson.

The Cajuns took a 14-0 lead on Lewis’ lengthy TD run on a read-option play.

“That kid, he’s one in a million — one in 10 million,” Napier said of Lewis, highlighting the quarterback’s work ethic and knack for infusing teammates with confidence. “It’s one thing to be a great player. It’s another thing to be an incredible person and that’s what that guy is.”

Lewis’ 30-yard move to LeBlanc within the remaining minute of the half allowed the Cajuns to arrange Nate Snyder’s 33-yard discipline aim to make it 17-7 at halftime.

The Mountaineers almost closed the hole when Corey Sutton acquired each fingers on Brice’s 39-yard move to the nook of the tip zone, however cornerback Eric Garror ripped the ball out as each gamers crashed to the turf. That drive ended with a discipline aim.

Appalachian State: The Mountaineers’ solely losses in convention play all season got here towards the Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette. It was the third time in 4 years Appalachian State had performed within the Sun Belt title sport, beating Louisiana-Lafayette the primary two instances in Boone, North Carolina.

Louisiana-Lafayette: Napier completed 40-12 in 4 years — 33-5 in the course of the previous three seasons.

““I would say I’m hopeful some of progress we made will be continued,” Napier mentioned, praising how the gamers at ULL and the encompassing neighborhood has affected him and his household. “They’ve impacted us. We’re higher due to our time right here.”

Appalachian State: Awaits what shall be its seventh straight a bowl bid.

Louisiana-Lafayette: Awaits this system’s fourth straight bowl bid.

More AP school soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s school soccer publication: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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