Appalachian State has the talent on offense and the mindset on defense to be a really good team. On Wednesday night, the Mountaineers showed that talent in a dominant performance against Louisiana-Lafayette.
While this game was a blowout, it also showed that App State – whose only losses were to Tennessee and Miami – is probably the best team in the Sun Belt Conference right now. Tough tests remain later this season, but ASU appears ready to meet the challenge.
Taylor Lamb, the App State quarterback who had looked shaky in his last two outings, was almost perfect with his passes, going 15-for-26 for 206 yards in a 24-0 shutout win over the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Mountaineer defense also looked strong, holding ULL to only 135 rushing yards and sacking quarterback Anthony Jennings five times. ULL had only 79 total yards in the second half, on its way to its first shutout loss at home since 2002.
Lamb made his presence known on the game’s first play from scrimmage, as he lofted a pretty pass to receiver Sheadon Meadors for a 56-yard gain to the ULL 2, which set up a touchdown run by Jalin Moore on the next play. Meadors had 126 yards receiving from six catches in the game.
Moore later scored again from 41 yards out on a beautiful run that put the Mountaineers up 17-0.
An 8-yard touchdown pass from Lamb to tight end Colin Reed was the other touchdown play for App State.
Moore had his third-straight 100-yard game in as many games in his career, rushing for 106 yards before leaving the game with an injured ankle. Moore is replacing starting running back Marcus Lamb, who missed his third straight game due to an injury.
The ULL offense struggled to get much going. The App State defense clamped down on the Cajuns, preventing any big plays and holding running back Elijah McGuire to only 43 yards on 10 carries, way below his average of 103.4 yards per game. Jennings could not find many receivers open all game and threw for only 124 yards on Wednesday.
The win put the Mountaineers at 2-0 in SBC play, tied with Troy for first place until Saturday, when the Trojans face Georgia State. This win is probably the biggest one for App State until the Mountaineers play at Georgia Southern in two weeks. Also, App State must play at Troy on Nov. 12.
Those two games will probably decide the Sun Belt championship, but there’s an outside chance that Arkansas State can make a run in the conference after beating Georgia Southern on a last-minute touchdown last week after starting the season 0-4. The Mountaineers and Red Wolves don’t play each other this season, but ASU does play Troy on Nov. 17.
Meanwhile, ULL drops to 2-4 and 1-2 in SBC play. The Cajuns are now getting dangerously close to having a losing record for the second straight year after going 9-4 each year from 2011 to 2014. Head coach Mark Hudspeth has been seen as a savior to the program, but now must find a way to keep his team from getting down in the mire of a three-game losing streak.
The Cajuns do have some games left to turn the season around. Next Saturday’s game at Texas State is now a must-win situation, but the ULL offense will match up better against the Bobcats. ULL must get home wins over Idaho and Arkansas State, while beating in-state rival UL-Monroe on the final day of the season just to reach 6-6 (unless ULL can get upset wins at Georgia Southern and at Georgia).
This game was less about ULL’s struggles than the strength of App State as a team. The offense made big plays when it needed to. The defense looked dominant. If the Mountaineers can get healthy at the running back position and their defense can keep playing lights out, it’s going to be a forgone conclusion that App State is the best team in the SBC.