BIRMINGHAM, Ala: Heading into Tuesday’s TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl between Coastal Carolina and East Carolina, conventional wisdom was that both teams would have to score and score a lot. The Pirates adhered to that philosophy more so than the Chanticleers, as ECU posted a 53-29 victory on a chilly night at Protective Stadium in downtown Birmingham. It was the most points given up this season by Coastal (9-4), which finishes the year on a three-game losing streak. As a matter of fact, in each of CCU’s four losses, the Chanticleers allowed at least 45 points. The victory marked ECU’s first bowl win since a 37-20 triumph over Ohio in the 2013 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
CCU QB Grayson McCall completed 10-of-12 passes for 67 yards in what could have been his final game as a Chanticleer. The redshirt junior, who entered the transfer portal on December 12th but elected to play in the bowl game, scored a rushing touchdown in the second quarter to put his team up 14-10. However, that turned out to be his final play of the game, as he was injured when he somersaulted into the end zone and appeared to land on his head. McCall was immediately taken to the Coastal locker room for evaluation and returned to the field in street clothes during the third quarter.
McCall’s counterpart, Holton Ahlers, was terrific in earning “Most Valuable Player” honors. The ECU senior was 26-of-38 for 300 yards with five passing touchdowns. He also rushed for 60 yards, adding another score.
Coastal Carolina Postgame Press Conference — Staggs, Bruce, White
Game Recap, Courtesy of Coastal Carolina Media Relations
Behind a touchdown by redshirt junior quarterback Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina took a 14-10 second quarter lead only to see the East Carolina Pirates fight back and pull away for a 53-29 win at the 16th TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
The matchup was the first between the two Carolina schools on the gridiron.
The loss ended the Chanticleers’ season at 9-4 overall, while with the win, ECU finished at 8-5 on the year.
Offensively, the Chants were plagued by three lost fumbles, while on the defensive end it was big plays that haunted the Men in Teal in the loss. ECU totaled 486 yards of total offense to the Chanticleers’ 337, which was comprised of 125 yards on the ground and 212 through the air.
Coastal was 3-of-4 in the red zone for the contest, however, the Pirates were a perfect 7-of-7 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
McCall, who left the game midway through the second quarter with an injury, was 10-of-12 for 67 yards through the air and added 12 yards and a score on the ground. Fellow redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guest was 6-of-11 for 136 yards and a touchdown.
ECU was led by veteran quarterback Holton Ahlers, as the Bowl MVP set a Birmingham Bowl record with five touchdown passes and six total touchdowns. The lefty was 26-for-38 for 300 yards and five touchdowns in the passing game and added seven carries for 48 yards and a score in the win.
The Pirates had 10 different players record a reception on the night, led by C.J. Johnson with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown and Isaiah Winstead with six grabs for 72 yards and two scores.
Running back Keaton Mitchell again eclipsed the 100-yards mark, as he carried the ball a game-high 24 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
- CCU drops to 1-2 all-time in FBS postseason bowl games.
- Coastal’s loss puts the Chants at 0-1 all-time versus East Carolina on the gridiron.
- The defeat to the Pirates marks the first time the Chanticleers have lost three straight games since 2019.
- With the loss, CCU moves to 1-2 all-time in neutral site games, all three games coming in bowl play.
- TJ Ivy Jr. made his first career catch as a Chanticleer in the first quarter.
- Ivy Jr. had a career-high two receptions for 29 yards in the contest.
- Matthew McDoom had a career-high eight tackles in his first career start.
- Tobias Fletcher finished with a career-high seven tackles and two pass breakups.
- Hoover, Ala., native, Corey Warren had a career-high two tackles in his hometown.
- Jameson Tucker recorded his first-ever blocked kick, as he blocked a punt in the fourth quarter.