(UL ATHLETICS) – Louisiana rallied late in the second half with 14 points in the final five minutes, but was unable to overcome a 21-point deficit created in the first quarter as it fell to Appalachian State, 45-38, in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game on Saturday afternoon.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (10-3, 7-1 SBC) now await their bowl game destination, which will be announced on Sunday afternoon on ESPN.
Of the team’s 513 total yards in Saturday’s game, 354 came through the air courtesy of Levi Lewis, who finished the day 24-for-46 with three touchdowns along with his career-high yardage total. Lewis has now accounted for 23 passing touchdowns this season, tied for the most in a single season with Blaine Gautier (2011).
Wideout Ja’Marcus Bradley added his eighth touchdown pass of the season and the 20th of his career, giving him sole possession of third place in school history for career receiving scores. He finished the game with five receptions for 58 yards. Peter LeBlanc had a career day, hauling in three passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ground, Elijah Mitchell led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 85 yards on 18 carries and his 15th rushing score of the season, while also hauling in a two-yard touchdown pass from Lewis.
After a shaky first half, Louisiana’s defense was solid in the second period, holding Appalachian State to just three points. Jacques Boudreaux led the team with a career-high 13 tackles against the Mountaineers. Boudreaux now has 102 total tackles this season, Louisiana’s first player to go over the 100 tackle threshold since Tre’Maine Lightfoot notched 101 in 2016.
It was all Appalachian State early when the Mountaineers scored in the opening two minutes on a 58-yard touchdown pass and then turned a Louisiana fumble into seven points to take a 14-0 with 9:38 left in the first quarter.
Down 21-0 late in the first quarter, Louisiana found some rhythm on offense when Lewis connected with LeBlanc for a 37-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 21-7. Lewis found Mitchell for a one-yard touchdown score with 8:13 to play in the second quarter, but Appalachian State scored two touchdowns of its own to open a 35-14 lead.
With eight seconds left on the clock, Artigue came through and provided some momentum heading into the locker room with a career-long, 53-yard field goal to pull Louisiana within 35-17 at halftime.
Appalachian State extended its lead in the second half when its defense picked off Lewis and returned the ball 16 yards for the score, going ahead, 42-17. Louisiana answered with a score at the 2:41 mark of the third quarter when Lewis hit Bradley from two yards, pushing the score to 42-24.
After Mitchell found the end zone in fourth quarter from one yard out with 4:18 to play to cut the lead to 45-31, the Ragin’ Cajuns pulled within seven points three minutes later when LeBlanc hauled in his second touchdown of the game from 38-yards out.
With the game on the line, Louisiana lined up for an onside kick, but the attempt went out of bounds, and Appalachian State held on for the 45-38 victory.