Troy repeats as Sun Belt champions

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The Troy Trojans defeated Appalachian State 49-23 Saturday to win this year’s Sun Belt Championship. (Troy Athletics)

TROY, Ala. – Just when you thought he couldn’t do anymore, Kimani Vidal rushed for a Troy-record five touchdowns to lead the Trojans to their eighth Sun Belt Conference title with a 49-23 victory over App State on Saturday at The Vet in the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Championship Game.
 
Vidal scored three times in a 28-point fourth quarter outburst by the Trojans (11-2), who won for the 10thstraight time and 22nd time in their last 24 games. Troy’s eight Sun Belt titles are the most in league history and are tied for the fifth most nationally since 2006.
 
“Extremely proud of our team,” head coach Jon Sumrall said. “These guys — it’s all about them. Grateful. Just thank God for everything they’ve done. They have changed me and helped make me better. I’m just glad they let us coach them. I could not be more proud of their accomplishments. They’ve had a heck of a year, and I am just extremely grateful for what they’ve done.”
 
Vidal rushed for 233 yards on 26 carries and became the first player to ever rush for five touchdowns in an FBS conference championship game. He scored twice in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead before going wild in the fourth quarter.
 
Troy broke the ice late in the second quarter on a 7-yard run Vidal touchdown out of the wildcat as teams battled rain throughout the game. The Trojan defense forced a 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, and four plays later, Vidal found paydirt again, this time from 36-yards out to give Troy a 14-0 lead.
 
App State (8-5), which saw its five-game winning streak overall and against Troy come to an end, answered with a 9-play drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Kanye Roberts to pull within seven at the half. 
 
Troy’s defense got after App State quarterback Joey Aguilar all night long, sacking the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year five times and holding him without a touchdown pass for the first time in eight weeks; he had five straight games with three or more touchdowns.
 
Javon Solomon set the Sun Belt Conference single-season record with his 16th sack of the year after recording two against the Mountaineers. His 16 sacks are the most by a Trojan in the program’s DI era and the most since 1980.
 
App State tied the game at 14-all on its opening drive of the season half, but Troy stormed right back down the field, capped by a 51-yard touchdown pass from Gunnar Watson to Chris Lewis. The Mountaineers pulled within three, 21-17, on a 41-yard field goal before Vidal answered with a 2-yard touchdown, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, Don Callis stripped the ball from Aguliar’s hand and returned it 10-yards for a touchdown to push Troy’s lead out to 35-17.
 
Roberts rushed for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Aguilar completed 28-of-39 passes for 275 yards.
 
Notable
• Since losing on a Hail Mary at App State in Week 3 last season, Troy is 22-2.
 
• Troy won its eighth Sun Belt Championship and 23rd all-time conference title; Troy’s eighth Sun Belt title ranks alone as the most in Sun Belt history. Troy’s eight conference titles are tied with Clemson for the fifth most in the country since 2016.
 
• Troy improved to 16-1 under Jon Sumrall when leading at the half; Troy led App State 14-10 at the break.
 
• Troy improved to 17-0 under Jon Sumrall when leading at the end of the third quarter; Troy led App State 21-17 heading to the fourth quarter.
 
• Troy has outscored its opponents 303-101 over its past nine games.
 
• Troy’s victory was its 10th straight overall, the second straight season in which Troy has put together a 10-game winning streak.
 
• Troy’s 11th victory marked the second time in program history it won 11 games in consecutive seasons (1995, 1996).
 
• Troy has won 69 games since the start of the 2016 season, the 16th most nationally.
 
• Troy has won 23 games since the start of the 2022 season, the fourth most nationally.
 
• Kimani Vidal rushed for a Troy program record five touchdowns in the victory; it was the most touchdowns ever in an FBS conference championship game. He is one of just three players this season to rush for five touchdowns in a game — Ollie Gordon (Okla. State), Avery Johnson (Kansas State).
 
• Kimani Vidal moved to second nationally with 1,582 rushing yards on the season after rushing for a Sun Belt Conference Championship Game record 233 yards on 26 carries. The previous record was 117 yards by Emani Bailey of Louisiana in 2021.

• Kimani Vidal topped the 200-yard mark for the third time this season and for the fifth time in his career; he is responsible for five of Troy’s 11 all-time 200-yard rushing games. He has three of the top 15 single-game rushing totals this season. 
 
• Kimani Vidal’s five rushing touchdowns moved him into a tie for third all-time in rushing touchdowns in program history with 33. 
 
• Kimani Vidal has now rushed for 14 touchdowns this season, the fourth most in Troy history.
 
• Gunnar Watson passed for 192 yards, pushing his season total to 3,333 yards, the sixth most in a season in program history.
 
• Troy has won 18 straight games when rushing for 100-plus yards and 20 of the last 21 games when topping the 100-yard mark. Additionally, Troy has won 21 straight games when rushing for 200-plus yards.
 
• Kimani Vidal’s seventh 100-yard rushing game this season is a new Troy single-season record, while his 14 career 100-yard rushing games are tied with DeWhitt Betterson for the most in program history.
 
• With his 51-yard touchdown pass to Chris LewisGunnar Watson became the third Troy quarterback of all time to surpass 10,000 passing yards for a career.
 
• Troy entered the weekend ranked 12th nationally averaging 9.83 points in the fourth quarter; the Trojans scored 28 points in the fourth quarter against App State. 
 
• Troy recorded five sacks in the game and now has 25 in its last four games; the Trojans 20 sacks in their last three entering the weekend were five more than anyone else in the country. Troy moved to fourth nationally with 44 sacks this season.
 
• Javon Solomon added two more sacks pushing his season total to 16.0 on the year, which is now the most in the country. His 16 sacks are a Troy Division I record and are the most by a Trojan since Kenny Craik’s school record 20.0 in 1980. He also forced two fumbles in the game.
 
• Javon Solomon’s 16 sacks are the most in a season in Sun Belt Conference history.
 
• Javon Solomon’s two sacks marked his seventh career game with multiple sacks, the most in Troy’s DI history … he entered the week 38th nationally since the start of 2000.
 
• Dell Pettus had a career game with a career-best two sacks for loss, plus a sack and 11 tackles (one off his career-high). Pettus moved into 12th place all-time in Troy history with 313 career tackles.
 
• Troy recorded 10 tackles for loss in the game. The Trojans have four-plus TFLs in all 13 games this season and 10 games with six-plus TFLs. It marked the third time in the last four games Troy had 10-plus stops behind the line. 
 
• Don Callis recorded a strip-sack – the first sack of his career – and returned the fumble for a 10-yard touchdown, also the first of his career. It was Troy’s third defensive touchdown of the season, marking the fourth straight season it has had three-plus defensive scores.
 
• Troy forced a pair of turnovers in the game. The Trojans entered the weekend tied for first with 187 forced turnovers since the start of the 2016. Troy’s 51 games with multiple turnovers since 2016 led the country. 
 
• Troy held App State to 383 yards of total offense; the Trojans have held 20 of their last 22 opponents to fewer than 400 yards.