BOONE, N.C. (AP) — No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette overcame three snaps over the punter’s head and another bad one on a extra point, beating Appalachian State 24-21 on a cold, rainy Friday night when the Mountaineers’ Chandler Staton missed a 30-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
Running back Trey Ragas scored three touchdowns, and Levi Lewis threw for 101 yards and a touchdown and ran for 77 yards to help the Ragin’ Cajuns (9-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) beat Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2) for the first time and win their sixth straight game.
Louisiana-Lafayette was 0-8 against Appalachian State, including losses in the last two conference championship games.
Long snapper Paul Boudreaux put Louisiana-Lafayette in a bind early, twice snapping more than 10 yards over the head of the punter in the first half and then sending a high snap to the holder on a failed extra point resulting in a 10-9 halftime deficit.
Still, the Ragin’ Cajuns appeared in control after Ragas’ touchdown runs of 17 and 1 yards in the third quarter made it 24-10.
But Appalachian State cut the lead to seven on a touchdown run by Camerun Peoples, and Boudreaux remarkably sent another snap over the head of the punter, who chased it down and kicked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 6:36 left in the game — giving the Mountaineers the ball back down by five.
But Ferrod Gardner and Chauncey Manac combined to sack Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas on a fourth-and-9 play at the Lafayette 29.
Still, the Ragin’ Cajuns couldn’t put the game away and were faced with a fourth-and-2. Instead of going for it — or risking another bad snap on a punt — coach Billy Napier elected to have Lewis run back out of the end zone for a safety, cutting the lead lead to 24-21 with 1:46 to go and putting the game in the hands of his defense.
Appalachian State moved into field goal range following a pass defensive interference penalty near the end zone, but Staton hooked a 30-yard field goal wide left.
Thomas entered the game with 30 career wins — second only to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence among active college quarterbacks — but the Ragin’ Cajuns held him to 92 yards passing and two interceptions.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had already clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game against Coastal Carolina, so this contest was largely about pride. Appalachian State beat Louisiana-Lafayette four times in the previous two seasons, twice in the championship game on this same field.
Former Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback Jake Delhomme introduced Lewis remotely during pregame introductions. Delhomme, who led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl, is the only ULL quarterback with more TD passes than Lewis.
Louisiana-Lafayette: It’s possible the Ragin’ Cajuns may be too scared to ever try to punt the ball again after a disastrous night for Boudreaux. Regardless, Napier is probably going to need to seek alternative options at long snapper.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers couldn’t get anything going offensively, and were limited to 290 yards.
Despite the near loss, Louisiana-Lafayette should remain in about the same position in the polls.
Louisiana-Lafayette: Will play at No. 14 Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Dec. 19. It is the Ragin’ Cajuns third straight appearance in the conference title game.
Appalachian State: Head on the road to face Georgia Southern on Dec. 12 in the regular season finale.
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