DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia stressed several times this week that nothing was going to change with his team’s preparation or mindset because the Chanticleers were in the playoffs.
What he didn’t specifically mention was that nothing would change in terms of the Chants’ penchant for dominance.
Making the third NCAA FCS playoff appearance in program history, Coastal scored the game’s first 24 points, didn’t give up a score until midway through the fourth quarter, and never had its lead seriously threatened on the way to a 24-14 win on the road over No. 22-ranked Bethune-Cookman.
It is the first-ever postseason win for the Chants (8-4), who advance to the second round and will go on the road to play fourth-seeded Old Dominion (10-1) Saturday in Norfolk, Va.
“It’s huge. It’s huge for all the seniors, for us as a program period,” said senior quarterback Aramis Hillary. “It kind of gets us on the national level if you want to say.
“That’s kind of what we talked about when we had our first meeting with coach Moglia. For him to come in and do it his first year and for our seniors to go out like this, it’s great. For us to have a chance in the playoffs and try to make some noise and try to go win it all, it’s great. Words can’t even explain how excited we are each and every time we get an extra opportunity to go play a game.”
Coastal won its final five regular-season games by 21 points or more to earn the Big South’s automatic postseason berth and claim their spot on the 20-team FCS playoff bracket.
Hillary completed 19-of-24 passes for 180 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and rushed for 38 yards. Seniors Jeremy Height and Marcus Whitener rushed for 78 and 72 yards respectively, the Coastal defense forced two turnovers and delivered in big moments, and the Chants played a disciplined game with two penalties for 10 yards. Bethune-Cookman had 10 penalties for 108 yards.
Coastal’s eight wins marks its highest total since 2006.
“It’s a historical fact, which I know everybody is proud of,” Moglia said of securing that first playoff win. “But I think what’s more important is that we’re really able to lay a foundation upon which to build.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Coastal broke the game open before halftime with 17 second-quarter points.
Whitener found the end zone on a 14-yard option pitch in the opening minutes of the second quarter. The Chants pushed their lead to 14-0 about 61/2 minutes later when junior Matt Hazel made a grab in the back left corner of the end zone on a 3-yard fade pass over two defenders.
On the ensuing possession for Bethune-Cookman (9-3), junior safety Johnnie Houston jarred the ball from junior tight end Jordan Murphy and Coastal recovered the fumble at the Wildcats’ 43. After Hillary was then sacked on third down from the 12, sophomore Alex Catron converted a 35-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins had a contentious afternoon with the officials, beginning with that fumble. Murphy was initially ruled down on the play, but the call was overturned upon review and the ball was awarded to Coastal. Jenkins was set off by the call and went on the field to let his frustrations be heard.
The Wildcats’ best chance came early in the fourth quarter after they drove to the Coastal 6. But facing fourth-and-5, they were called for a false start. Jenkins argued the call on the field until being flagged for a 15-yard nsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed his offense back to the 26.
Senior quarterback Brodrick Waters then appeared to find senior KJ Stroud in the back of the end zone for a touchdown on the next play, but the call was reviewed and overturned giving Coastal possession.
Johnnie Houston soon added to Coastal’s lead, intercepting Waters on the Wildcats’ next drive and returning it 68 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-0 with 10:26 remaining.
Bethune-Cookman scored its first points with 6:44 to play on a 74-yard pass from sophomore Quentin Williams to senior David Blackwell and converted the two-point conversion, and the Wildcats then cut the Coastal lead to 24-14 on a 10-yard touchdown run by junior Isidore Jackson with 1:22 remaining. A failed two-point conversion try ended any thoughts of a late rally.
“We’re very appreciative of it,” Houston said. “We realize nothing is given to us; we’ve got to go out there and earn it. And we’re just thankful that we get to go on to the next week and play [another] playoff game.”
CCar—Whitener 14 run (Catron kick), 13:50. CCar—Hazel 3 pass from Hillary (Catron kick), 7:23. CCar—FG Catron 35, 3:05.
CCar—Houston 68 interception return (Catron kick), 10:26. Beth—Blackwell 74 pass from Q.Williams (Stroud pass from Q.Williams), 6:44. Beth—I.Jackson 10 run (pass failed), 1:22.
Att.—5,465 (at Bethune-Cookman).
|Time of Possession||28:27||25:59|
RUSHING—Coastal Carolina, Height 16-78, Whitener 11-72, Hillary 11-38, Small 7-14. Bethune-Cookman, Waters 4-95, I.Jackson 18-77, Scott 8-38, Q.Williams 13-(minus 4).
PASSING—Coastal Carolina, Hillary 19-24-1-180. Bethune-Cookman, Q.Williams 8-18-0-215, Waters 1-5-1-(minus 1).
RECEIVING—Coastal Carolina, Bennett 4-44, Blanks 4-43, Hazel 3-29, Mastromatteo 3-27, Height 3-11, Pauciello 1-24, Presley 1-2. Bethune-Cookman, Poole 4-116, Blackwell 1-74, I.Jackson 1-14, Cleckley 1-11, Murphy 1-0, Scott 1-(minus 1).