FARGO, N.D. — The question came from a local reporter in Montana after Coastal Carolina’s eye-opening second-round NCAA FCS playoff win against the host Grizzlies last weekend.
Addressing sophomore quarterback Alex Ross — who had delivered one of the great performances of his young collegiate career in the sub-zero cold against one of the country’s most historically successful FCS programs — the reporter honed in how the Chanticleers and their first-year starting quarterback performed on the road.
“How do you guys have so much confidence?” he was asked.
Ross talked in general terms about the process from the beginning of the season, but the most to-the-point answer would be that it starts with the guy taking the snaps and the trust he’s gained from his teammates and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude.
Ross’ performance against the Grizzlies — 16-of-21 passing for 202 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a team-high 123 rushing yards — was the latest in a steadily growing collection of memorable big-game efforts for Ross.
By this point, it doesn’t come as much surprise to those who have watched his breakout season.
“He’s pretty much done that the whole year,” Patenaude said. “I really believe that if it was a different circumstance and we had to throw the ball, 35, 45, 50 times, he’d be fine.”
No. 11-ranked Coastal faces its toughest challenge yet Saturday as it visits No. 1 North Dakota State, the two-time defending FCS national champions, in a quarterfinals matchup inside The Fargodome.
The Chants, third in the country in scoring at 42.9 points per game, face the FCS level’s most stifling defense with a Bison team allowing 11.2 points per game (tops in the nation) and 250.0 yards per contest (second).
This Coastal team has not been easily intimidated this fall, though.
“We’re very confident,” Ross said. “You go up there expecting to win. You’re not going to go up there thinking you’re going to lose. We’ve got to up there with complete confidence in ourselves … and we’ve got to go get after them.”
Through 13 starts in his debut as Coastal’s offensive leader, the 6-foot-1 Ross has thrown for 2,908 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions and has rushed for 526 yards and six scores.
He has established a program record with his 66 completion percentage and is in range of program single-season records for pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.