Appalachian State to play for share of Sun Belt title

Mountaineers clinch second straight crown with a win

Randy Sartin—USA TODAY Sports
Coach Scott Satterfield and Appalachian State will win a share of the Sun Belt Conference title if they beat Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend. (Randy Sartin— / USA TODAY Sports)

There’s no conference championship game in the Sun Belt, at least not until next season. While the other conferences crown their champion on the first Saturday of December, however, the Sun Belt will be doing the same.

A wild title race saw a four-team tie heading into Thanksgiving weekend, with a chance of a five-way tie at the top.

Last week brought a great deal of clarity to the picture. Two teams — Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette — were eliminated in the penultimate game.

Now, one of the few questions remaining is whether Appalachian State will get a share of the championship.

After beating Georgia State on Saturday in a battle of first-place teams, the Mountaineers are one of three teams at the top of the Sun Belt with a 6-1 conference record. The other two — Troy and Arkansas State — play each other on Saturday. The winner gets a ring.

In Boone, App State will also have a shot at a ring. If the Mountaineers beat Louisiana, they’ll tie the Troy-Arkansas State winner for the crown. An App loss means the winner of the showdown in Jonesboro is the sole champion.

“It’s championship week coming up for us,” said Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield, immediately after the Mountaineers led wire-to-wire in a 31-10 blowout of Georgia State. “We know what’s at stake here, with Lafayette coming into Boone next week. We’re so excited and ready to get on the practice field right now.”

With a chance to wrap up a share of its second straight league title at home, App State is having trouble waiting for game day to arrive.

“It’s Senior Night, so there’s going to be a lot of energy,” said senior safety A.J. Howard, who had a 61-yard interception return to the 5-yard line last week. “We just have to approach this game the same way — approach it like we did this week, with a chip on our shoulder.”

App State looked like a team on a mission last week. The team shut down star receiver Penny Hart and shredded a Georgia State defense that hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year. Jalin Moore rushed for 239 yards, and App State racked up a season-high 323 yards on the ground.

“I’m proud of the team and the way we prepared the last three weeks,” Satterfield said.

The win earned the Mountaineers a chance to play for the title on Championship Saturday. In their way is a Louisiana-Lafayette team that will be playing for a chance to become bowl eligible.

While the Ragin’ Cajuns rank near the bottom of the conference in most defensive categories, the offense could give App State a shootout. Louisiana is led by running back Trey Ragas — the Sun Belt’s sixth leading rusher — and quarterback Jordan Davis.

The Mountaineers will be ready.

“We’ve just got to make sure we come with a good game plan,” said linebacker Anthony Flory. “Our coach is going to give us something good to work with, something fun to work with.”