TROY, Ala. — Kimani Vidal and Troy’s defense combined to run away with another title in the fourth quarter.
Vidal rushed for 233 yards and five touchdowns and Troy scored twice in a six-second span of a monster fourth quarter in a 49-23 victory Saturday over Appalachian State for the Trojans’ second straight Sun Belt Conference title.
“Last year maybe nobody expected us to do it,” Troy coach Jon Sumrall said. “So we were a dark horse. I think we got everybody’s best shot this year. We got everybody’s full attention.”
Troy (11-2) produced a lopsided win in the league championship game after a 1-2 start for the second season in a row. This one was up for grabs until Vidal’s 2-yard touchdown followed swiftly by Don Callis’s strip-sack and touchdown that made it 35-17 lead with 10:51 left in a rain-soaked game.
Vidal and Troy weren’t done by a long shot. The Sun Belt offensive player of the year sandwiched scores of 6 and 49 yards around another strip-sack — this one by Javon Solomon, who also made the fumble recovery — over the final five minutes of the Trojans’ 28-point fourth quarter.
Vidal recorded the most TD rushes by a player in an FBS league championship game.
The Trojans ran away with their 10th straight win and fans needed only a few minutes to pull down one of the goalposts, with students ultimately hauling both out of the stadium. They have claimed Sun Belt titles in each of Sumrall’s first two seasons.
The Mountaineers (8-5) lined up to go for it on fourth down from their 48 to open the final quarter. They were forced to punt after a false start penalty.
Troy ran 10 straight times and Vidal got his third score. The league’s top defense then delivered.
Only six seconds ticked off the clock before Callis knocked the ball away from quarterback Joey Aguilar and returned it 10 yards to the end zone.
“About two weeks ago we called that same play,” Callis said. “I didn’t go. I didn’t blitz. I messed that up.”
Appalachian State had overcome a 3-4 start to win five straight and make the title game.
“It’s gut-wrenching to lose a game of this magnitude,” Mountaineers coach Shawn Clark said. “When you play a championship game, you have to play near-perfect. It starts with coaching. We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t block well. And we lost the turnover battle.”
Vidal carried 26 times and topped 200 yards for the third time this season. Gunnar Watson was 16-of-24 passing for 192 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown to Chris Lewis, pushing Watson over 10,000 yards passing for his career.
Aguilar completed 28 of 39 passes for 275 yards for Appalachian State while Kanye Roberts rushed for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
Appalachian State tight end Eli Wilson recovered Aguilar’s fumble in the end zone for a final touchdown with 5:34 to play. The 2-point attempt and onside kick both failed, and Vidal scored just over a minute later before his TD with 2:42 remaining capped the scoring.
It was the first meeting since the Mountaineers’ 32-28 win early last season on a final-play Hail Mary. Troy is 22-2 since then.
“I feel like (the media) made it about that,” Vidal said. “We didn’t talk about how it ended at all.”
They liked this ending much better, anyway.
The Mountaineers fell to 2-2 in Sun Belt championship games but have won four league titles since moving up to FBS in 2014. Aguilar set App State’s single-season passing record in the first half.