Conway: On a day in which the Sun Belt Conference put the “Power 5” between its crosshairs, Coastal Carolina avoided an upset at the hands of FCS opponent Gardner-Webb. The Chanticleers forced five turnovers on a humid Saturday night in Conway to rally past the Bulldogs 31-27 in front of an announced crowd of 12,261 at Brooks Stadium.
After Appalachian State pulled off a 17-14 upset of Texas A&M in College Station, Marshall stunned Notre Dame 26-21 in South Bend, and Georgia Southern shocked Nebraska 45-42 in Lincoln, the Chanticleers may have expected a cake walk against their former Big South Conference rivals. They got anything but.
The opening quarter was a battle of field position as the two teams traded a series of punts before CCU got on the board with a 48-yard field goal from Kade Hensley. The lengthy try capped a short five-play, thirty-six-yard drive to give the Chanticleers a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period.
After Gardner-Webb (1-1) answered with a 47-yard FG of their own, Matthew McDoom got the crowd on its feet with a 95-yard kickoff return to put the home team up 10-3 with 5:56 remaining in the half. A few plays later, the Chanticleers were in the end zone again.
On the ensuing kickoff, Coastal (2-0) forced a fumble on the return that was recovered by the kicker, Hensley, at the Bulldogs 33. Grayson McCall completed two passes to Tyson Mobley to give CCU a 17-3 lead and what appeared to be control of the game with 5:16 to go before halftime. Instead, the visitors from Boiling Springs, NC, went right back to work.
Following a 9-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a short TD pass from Bailey Fisher to Cutrell Haywood, perhaps the biggest sequence of the game occurred. A series of plays that will haunt GW head coach Tre Lamb and Fisher for weeks to come.
On 1st down from the Bulldogs 43, Grayson McCall threw his first interception of the season and should have paid for it dearly. Jamari Brown’s 67-yard return for a touchdown was wiped out by a holding penalty, yet the Bulldogs still had 1:25 remaining in the first half with the ball at the CCU 23. They did not score.
With seven seconds left in the half, Fisher elected to try and run the ball in for a touchdown but was tackled shy of the goal line as time expired. The officials reviewed the play and confirmed that the first half clock had run out before Lamb was able to call a timeout, allowing CCU to breathe a sigh of relief and take a 17-10 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs’ inability to get any points in the waning seconds was a costly mistake as the final score would later indicate.
“When a mom goes to the hospital and gives birth, there’s no ugly babies,” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said in his postgame press conference. The analogy was clearly an homage to CCU’s sloppy play and inability to run the football. “I thought they outplayed us the whole time. We made enough plays there in the 4th quarter offensively to take the lead back, and then being able to get the turnovers to seal the game was huge.”
The teal and black held a slim 24-20 lead going into the fourth quarter, which was quickly erased by the Bulldogs with 10:33 to play. Fisher’s 2nd TD run of the night stunned the remaining fans and gave Gardner-Webb a 27-24 advantage.
But when the Chanticleers needed it the most, the offense answered the bell. Piecing together a magnificent 84-yard, 10-play drive to reclaim the lead, 31-27, with 6:25 to play.
Senior Lance Boykin then took matters into his own hands, recording interceptions on back-to-back possessions to seal CCU’s 13th win in fifteen tries against the Bulldogs.
Coastal wraps up its three-game home stand next Saturday against Buffalo at 1pm, while Gardner-Webb visits Elon for a 6pm kickoff.
CCU HC Jamey Chadwell — Postgame Press Conference