Following the past two appearances, Coastal Carolina may be the favorite choice for Cure Bowl officials moving forward. A season ago, CCU fell in overtime to Liberty 37-34 on a blocked field goal. On Friday, the Chanticleers made the plays to collect the program’s first ever bowl victory, 47-41 over Northern Illinois in front of an announced crowd of 9,784 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
In a see-saw affair that featured a total of fifteen scoring plays and over one thousand yards of total offense, it was the Chanticleers defense that came up big in crunch time. With the Huskies (9-5) leading 41-39 and facing fourth and one from its own 34-yard line, Coastal stuffed NIU for its only failed 4th down conversion of the night. One play later, Brayden Bennett took a pitch/pass around the right end and raced 34-yards for his third touchdown of the night, giving Coastal a 47-41 lead with 6:40 remaining in the contest.
But the lead wasn’t safe, as the reigning MAC champions got the football one final time and embarked on what they hoped would be a game winning, 87-yard scoring drive with 2:29 left the play. They came up four yards shy of that goal.
After marching into the CCU “Red Zone” thanks to a series of short passes and good clock management, the Huskies faced fourth and one from the Chanticleers’ 8-yard line. And although Rocky Lombardi completed a pass for the first down, the clock ran out as NIU was lining up to try and run one final play setting off a wild celebration on the CCU (11-2) sideline.
Afterwards, head coach Jamey Chadwell said the win validated what his team had been building towards the last couple of seasons. “We talked about leaving a legacy and being a family. This team over the last two years has been on a journey and a ride to prove that they can be FBS players and be an FBS team to can be reckoned with.”
In earning the award, McCall threw for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns on 22-of-30 passing. He also carried the football 10 times for 40 yards. Meantime, tight end Isaiah Likely led CCU in receiving with 96 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. Following his performance, the senior allowed himself a moment to look forward to the NFL draft.
“I probably will take a week off and then it’s back to work. I’ve got the ‘Senior Bowl’ to prepare for. So, I’ve got a lot of questions to answer still, so I’m going to take it one step at a time.”
Northern Illinois dominated time of possession, holding the football for nearly forty minutes. They did so behind a mammoth offensive line that carved out 335 yards rushing against the Chanticleers. Jay Ducker led the way for the Huskies with 146 yards rushing on 24 carries. Lombardi rushed for 66 yards and a score, while throwing for a buck eighty-one and two touchdowns.