Levi Lewis threw for one touchdown and ran for another and No. 24 Louisiana’s defense held down Appalachian State in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 24-16 victory in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game Saturday in Lafayette, La.
The Cajuns (12-1) allowed just 289 yards in head coach Billy Napier’s final game before taking over as Florida’s head coach.
Louisiana clinched a berth in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl by winning for the first time in three title game appearances against the Mountaineers (10-3) in the last four seasons.
Emani Bailey Rushed for 117 yards and a rushing touchdown for Louisiana, which beat visiting Appalachian State during the regular season, 41-13 on Oct. 12. The Cajuns set a school single-season record for wins, all of which have come since a 38-18 loss at Texas in the season opener.
The Cajuns drove to Lewis’ 27-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jefferson on the game’s first possession, producing the only first-quarter points.
The Mountaineers punted on their first four possessions and Louisiana punted on its first two possessions after the opening drive. But midway through the second quarter Lewis broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Cajuns’ lead.
Appalachian State finally broke through the fifth time it had the ball as Camerun Peoples ran 43 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7 with 2:38 left in the quarter.
After an exchange of punts Louisiana took over at its 46 with 32 seconds left and Lewis drove the Cajuns to Nate Snyder’s 33-yard field goal with one second left, increasing the margin to 17-7 at halftime.
Following the second-half kickoff, the Mountaineers drove 57 yards to Chandler Staton’s 36-yard field goal that pulled them to within 17-10.
The score remained that way until early in the fourth quarter, when Bailey ran 35 yards for a touchdown on third-and-nine play to increase Louisiana’s lead to 24-10 with 12:14 remaining.
With 5:06 remaining, Appalachian State got a 24-yard touchdown pass from Chase Brice to Daetrick Hennigan. The Mountaineers’ ensuing two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 24-16.
Appalachian State got the ball back in the final minute, but Chauncey Manac sacked Brice, forcing a fumble near midfield and recovering it with 23 seconds remaining to secure the victory.