Football: No. 20 Louisiana Takes Down Appalachian State, 24-21
Ragin’ Cajuns earn program’s first victory over the Mountaineers in prime time thriller
BOONE, N.C. – With the potential of overtime looming in dreary conditions, No. 20 Louisiana Football held its breath before erupting in celebration as Appalachian State's game-tying 30-yard field goal attempt with five seconds remaining sailed wide left to lock up a 24-21 victory for the Ragin' Cajuns on Friday night. With the win, Louisiana (9-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) earned the program's first victory over Appalachian State and extended its winning streak to six games. The Ragin' Cajuns have now posted a 9-1 record for the first time in program history. Running back Trey Ragas was pivotal in helping the team clinch the victory as his two third-quarter touchdowns gave Louisiana a lead it did not relinquish. Ragas finished the contest with 43 rushing yards on 12 carries and his two scores, while also hauling in an eight-yard touchdown reception. Seniors Elijah Mitchell and Levi Lewis also played key roles in the ground game, rushing for 95 yards and 77 yards, respectively. Lewis also added 101 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. Louisiana's defense once again stepped up huge, turning three App State turnovers into 14 points. Friday's performance marked the ninth time this season the defense has recorded two or more turnovers in a game, improving it to 9-0 in those games. Linebacker Ferrod Gardner notched his third double-digit tackle performance of the year with his 10 total tackles to go along with a tackle-for-loss and a 0.5 sack. Chauncey Manac was also impressive in the win, recording six tackles, two tackles-for-loss, 1.0 sack and his first career interception. Mekhi Garner was responsible for the team's other pick, his second of the season and the second of his career, while Zi'Yon Hill notched five tackles, 1.0 sack and a fumble recovery. The dreary conditions took a toll early and Appalachian State capitalized, scoring on its first drive of the game courtesy of a 33-yard rushing touchdown by freshman Nate Noel. Louisiana took advantage of a fumble forced by Lorenzo McCaskill, who finished the game with six tackles and a quarterback hurry, and recovered by Hill, taking the ball down the field in six plays to set up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Ragas to pull the Ragin' Cajuns within 7-6 following a missed extra point. After a successful App State field goal with just 26 seconds to play, Lewis found Jalen Williams for two big chunk plays to set up a 26-yard field goal for Kenneth Almendares, who knocked it through to cut the Mountaineers' lead to 10-9 at the break. The offense exploded in the second half, with Ragas finding the end zone from 17-yards out and Lewis converting a two-point conversion to push Louisiana in front, 17-10. Ragas added another rushing score with 29 seconds remaining in the quarter to extend the lead to 24-10. Appalachian State kept themselves alive in the fourth quarter when Camerun Peoples powered his way into the end zone to cut the home team's deficit to 24-17. With 6:36, two Ragin' Cajuns safeties gave the Mountaineers four additional points and the ball with 1:46 to play, which it took advantage of to set up a potential 30-yard game-tying field goal. However, the attempt sailed wide left to clinch the 24-21 victory. Louisiana now shifts its focus to the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 19, against No. 14 Coastal Carolina. The title game is slated to kickoff at 11 a.m. CST and will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.