Story and photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina Athletics
CONWAY, S.C. – The Coastal Carolina football team cruised to a 41-20 victory over Charleston Southern Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium to earn a share of the 2012 Big South Championship. The Chanticleers (7-4 overall) finished 5-1 in the conference, tied with Liberty and Stony Brook. However, the Chants earned the Big South’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs by virtue of the tiebreaker.
The FCS playoff pairings will be announced on ESPNU’s selection show Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1:30 p.m. Coastal will hold a viewing party in the team room on the third floor of Adkins Field House, beginning at 1 pm. 200
It is the Chanticleers’ fifth Big South title in 10 years and they will make their third appearance in the FCS playoffs.
Coastal, for a school-record the sixth consecutive game, rushed for over 200 yard, gaining 252 and rushing for five touchdowns. Aramis Hillary rushed for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown, while completing 12-of-22 passes for 102 yards.
Against the Buccaneers, the Chants sprinted out to a 21-0 second-quarter lead and led by double-digits the entire way. This is the fifth consecutive CCU win by 20-plus points and the third straight CCU has scored at least five offensive touchdowns. The previous two weeks, CCU rushed for five TDs and threw for three at Gardner-Webb, passed for five and rushed for three at Presbyterian.
Jeremy Height added 68 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Marcus Whitener gained 55 yards and ran for two scores.
Quinn Backus led Coastal’s defense with 16 tackles to set the CCU single-season record, now with 123. The previous mark was 116 set by Jamar Leath in a 12-game 2006 season. Backus added an interception, forced fumble and two tackles for loss in the victory.
Coastal Carolina forced a turnover on the first drive of the game as Backus picked off a Malcolm Dixon pass. The Chants could not take advantage and punted. With the ball on the CSU five, Backus made another big play, forcing a fumble. While the Buccaneers would recover, CSU would punt and Coastal took over on the Buccaneer 37 and would score six plays later on a two-yard Lorenzo Taliaferro rush.
On Charleston Southern’s ensuing drive, the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-one from the CSU 44. Coastal Carolina junior Tyler McCarthy read the option play and dropped Mike Davis for a five-yard loss. After one first down, Hillary had a 15-yard run and, one play later, capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 Chanticleer lead.
On its next drive, Charleston Southern went for it on fourth down on the CCU eight, facing fourth-and –two. Senior Quinton Davis made the stop at the seven to give Coastal the ball.
Following an exchange of punts, Coastal would drive 58 yards, thanks in part to a pass interference call against the Buccaneers, and take a 21-0 lead after a two-yard Jeremy Height touchdown.
Charleston Southern trimmed its deficit to 21-7 as time expired in the first half. Briar Van Brunt connected with Corvaughn Archie for 34 yards to the CCU seven with two seconds left. Derek Hatcher then hit Larry Jones III for a seven-yard score as time expired.
On the opening drive of the second half, Coastal took 10 plays and 4:28 to reach the end zone. Hillary had completions of 18 and 12 yards to Niccolo Mastromatteo. Then, facing fourth-and-two on the CSU 19, Hillary connected with Thomas Pauciello to the one. Two plays later, Whitener found paydirt and Austin Cain ran in the two-point play for a 29-7 lead.
The Buccaneers matched the touchdown on their ensuing drive. Teddy Allen set the tone with a 17-yard run. Later Dixon connected with Archie for 17 yards to the CCU four. After a loss of one yards, Allen scored from five yards out. The Buccaneers tried to answer Coastal’s two-point play, but Dontavais Johnson picked off Dixon in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a CCU defensive two-point play. It marked Coastal’s second 100-yard two-point play this season as Mike McClure matched the feat in a win at Furman in week two of the season.
The Chanticleers responded with another 10-play scoring drive. The key play in the drive was a Hillary a 21-yard rush before Whitener had runs of eight and two yards, the second for a TD, to give Coastal a 38-13 lead. On the first play of Charleston Southern’s ensuing drive, LaDarius Hawthorne picked off his third pass of the season. Again, Hillary had a big play to set up a score thanks to a 46-yard run. While the drive stalled, Alex Catron split the uprights from 36 yards out to give Coastal a 41-13 lead.
The Bucs kept the pressure on midway through the fourth as Dixon found tight end Nathan Prater open down the middle of the field for a 37-yard score. The point after trimmed the Buccaneer deficit to 21, 41-20.
However, the Chanticleers were able to run more than four minutes of the clock on their next drive before punting. Charleston Southern got the ball back with just 4:09 left on the clock and drove from its own 24 to the Coastal 25 before time ran out.
Soon after Coastal kicked off against the Bucs, Liberty finished off a 33-14 win over VMI, helping set up the three-way tiebreaker that the Chants won due to having the fewest road losses in conference play.
Prior to the game, Coastal honored its 17 seniors as they played their final regular-season game at Brooks Stadium.