App State starts tough two-game stretch at Louisiana

Appalachian State running back Nate Noel leads the Sun Belt Conference in yards rushing per game with 102.2. The Mountaineers visit Louisiana on Tuesday before entertaining No. 15 Coastal Carolina in an East Division showdown on Oct. 20.

Appalachian State opened its Sun Belt Conference schedule with a blowout at Georgia State, but the Mountaineers will have a significantly tougher task at Louisiana.

The game, a rare Tuesday night affair, will be broadcast on ESPN2. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Ragin’ Cajuns (4-1, 2-0 SBC) and App State (4-1, 1-0 SBC) have played in the last two conference championship games. Last year’s title game was not played because of the pandemic, and the West Division champion Ragin’ Cajuns were declared co-champions with East Division champion Coastal Carolina.

Since App State joined the Sun Belt in 2014, the Mountaineers and Ragin’ Cajuns rank first and second, respectively, among its league members in overall wins (74-21 for App State, 56-38 for Louisiana) and wins against Sun Belt teams (50-9 for App State, 40-20 for Louisiana).

App State has the Sun Belt’s No. 1 and No. 3 rushers in yards per game with Nate Noel at 102.2 and Camerun Peoples at 88.3. Peoples sat out at Georgia State, and Noel played only the first half. The only FBS program with four 500-yard rushers in 2020 relied on Watauga product Anderson Castle, who had a 22-yard touchdown run against the Panthers, and Jahmir Smith to rush for 90 second-half yards on 20 attempts. Daetrich Harrington, who ran for 595 yards in six games in an injury-shortened 2020 campaign, could make his 2021 debut against Louisiana.

The Mountaineers have the added incentive of avenging last year’s 24-21 loss to Louisiana in Kidd Brewer Stadium. That loss is App State’s only defeat in the series, which the Mountaineers lead 8-1.

The game at Louisiana is the first of two major games for App State. No. 15 Coastal Carolina makes the trip from Myrtle Beach to Boone on Oct. 20 for a nationally televised game with postseason implications. The Chanticleers (6-0, 2-0 SBC) defeated Arkansas State 52-20 on Thursday for their 11th straight win, and the Mountaineers will have to knock off their East Division rivals to get back to the conference championship game.

Like Tuesday’s game against Louisiana, Coastal Carolina and App State will play at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.