Appalachian St. out to topple Troy, host league title game

NCAA Football
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Appalachian State has accomplished so much to this point in the Sun Belt Conference, however there’s more work to be done.

The No. 22 Mountaineers can secure home-field advantage for the league championship game if they win Friday night against host Troy in Troy, Ala.

Troy has its own objectives, as in just getting to a bowl.

Much of the attention has been on first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s Appalachian State team as it has emerged in the national rankings.

“I’m definitely going to miss playing at The Rock,” offensive tackle Victor Johnson said, referring to the nickname for Kidd Brewer Stadium. “Hopefully we get one more here.”

Appalachian State (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) wrapped up the East Division by winning its regular-season home finale against Texas State and benefitting from Arkansas State’s toppling of Georgia Southern.

So now the Mountaineers know they have three games remaining, beginning with the regular-season finale at Troy (5-6, 3-4) and then the league title matchup with Louisiana before a bowl.

Appalachian State will make the final push for a championship without junior receiver Corey Sutton, who caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in Saturday’s 35-13 win against Texas State before sustaining a season-ending torn knee ligament. Sutton has a team-leading seven touchdown receptions and paces the Mountaineers with 14.7 yards per catch.

The Mountaineers might get more production from receiver Keishawn Watson, a graduate transfer from Western Michigan who scored his first touchdown with his new team last week.

“He had to become a team guy. He’s been that,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s been a dirty-work guy. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and he’s never once complained.”

The Mountaineers have been able to count on a consistent rushing attack, with running back Darrynton Evans adding to that with 154 yards and three touchdowns on the ground Saturday. He has a team-high 1,168 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on the season.

“To me, he’s one of the most dynamic players in college football because of his speed and return ability, and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Drinkwitz said.

The Trojans enjoyed a two-game winning streak before losing 53-3 last week at Louisiana, which racked up 598 yards of total offense.

For Troy, there’s still a chance to secure bowl eligibility.

“It was one of those situations that every time we took a step forward, we took two steps backwards, but we have a great opportunity to learn and get better,” Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. “We need to have a great week of practice and learn from our mistakes.”

The Trojans are 3-2 in home games this season. The Mountaineers lost in their last trip to Troy, falling 28-24 in 2016. Appalachian State won last year’s meeting 21-10 at home.

Appalachian State will be the third nationally ranked team to visit Troy. Missouri, then No. 17, was the opponent in 2004 and then-No. 22 Boise State made the trip last year.

This is an unfriendly late-season slate for Troy, which is taking on the Sun Belt’s divisional leaders in consecutive games.

“We are not where we want to be and would rather have things wrapped up (for bowl eligibility),” Lindsey said. “We have to continue being who we are and approach every day to try to improve.”

Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker will try to get back on track. He was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season in the Louisiana game.

–Field Level Media

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