LAFAYETTE, La (KLFY) – Louisiana Football claimed its first outright Sun Belt Conference Championship in program history after securing a thrilling 24-16 victory over App State in front of a record crowd of 31,014 on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Ragin’ Cajuns secured their 12th-straight victory, extending their record-breaking streak and bagging the most wins a single season in program history. The win was also the 40th of head coach Billy Napier‘s illustrious career.
Most Valuable Player Levi Lewis came up huge through the air and on the ground, throwing for 210 yards and touchdown while adding a 56-yard touchdown rush in the first quarter. Louisiana improved to 8-2 when Lewis throws a touchdown and rushes for a touchdown in the same game.
Running back Emani Bailey was also a bright spot for the team, toting the ball 14 times for a career-high 117 yards and his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
Louisiana’s defense was dominant for the second-straight meeting against App State, holding the Mountaineers to just 16 points in the contest, their second-fewest points of the season behind the 13 the scored in Lafayette on Oct. 12. Ferrod Gardner and Kam Pedescleaux led the team with seven tackles each, while Zi’Yon Hill notched five tackles 2.0 sacks and 2.0 tackles-for-loss.
For the eighth time this season, the Ragin’ Cajuns scored on their first drive of the game when they capped off a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown strike from Lewis to Jefferson.
The lead doubled to 14-0 two possessions later when Lewis took advantage of a massive hole in the middle of the field and scampered 56-yards to the house, his longest rush of the season and the longest rushing score of his career.
App State cut into the deficit with 2:38 left in the first half when Camerun Peoples broke free on the outside and score from 43-yards out.
Needing to steal back the momentum, kicker Nate Snyder buried a 33-yard field goal with six seconds showing on the clock to send Louisiana into the locker room with a 17-7 advantage.
After the Mountaineers scored the only points of the third quarter, Bailey pushed the lead to 24-10 when he put his skills on display and danced his way into the end zone from 35-yards out.
Thomas Hennigan and the visitors clad in black and gold made things interesting late when they cut the lead to 24-16 with a fourth down touchdown, but Chauncey Manac, who finished the night with six tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1.0 sack, got to Brice in the final seconds and forced a fumble which he recovered to clinch the memorable title victory.
Louisiana now awaits its bowl fate, which will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 5.