Coastal Carolina’s rewriting of the football record books continued Saturday as the Chanticleers bounced back from their first loss with a more familiar outcome.
The No. 9/11-ranked Chants rolled to a 46-13 victory over Presbyterian at Brooks Stadium in their final regular-season home game, marking the sixth time this season they’ve won by 25 or more points.
It was also the final FCS game of the regular season for Coastal (10-1, 4-1 Big South), which clinched a share of the conference championship for the second straight season and wraps up the schedule next week at South Carolina.
If there was any question how the Chants would respond after losing at Charleston Southern last week, it was answered early and thoroughly.
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“I’d say we were a little sloppy today, but we did what we had to do offensively today on the field and we put up points like we’re capable of doing, like we usually do, unlike we did last week,” sophomore quarterback Alex Ross said. “And that was the main focus this week, just coming out and being able to put up points like we have in the past. I think our offense successfully did that today.”
Senior Matt Hazel had a game-high seven catches for 119 yards and broke Jerome Simpson’s program record for career receptions, setting the new mark at 162 for now.
Senior Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries – all in the first half – while breaking the Big South record for total touchdowns in a season (24) and points scored in a season (144).
And Coastal set another yet conference record, breaking the mark for most points scored in a season by a team. The Chants are up to 501 through 11 games, surpassing Stony Brook’s 494 scored in 2011.
“We knew we had potential to have a really, really good offense, and I think what’s happened is our guys have lived up to their potential,” head coach Joe Moglia said.
Moglia adopted an excerpt from Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” as his message to the team this week, reiterating to his players before the game a quote about weathering the figurative storms that life brings.
For the Chants, it was shaking off the sting of that setback at Charleston Southern last weekend that cost them a shot at a perfect FCS season.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to bounce back,” Moglia said.
Coastal got off to an inauspicious start, having a touchdown pass from Ross to Hazel negated by a penalty before missing a 36-yard field goal to end its first possession.
But the Chants nonetheless built a 28-0 halftime lead as Ross scored on a 12-yard keeper, Taliaferro added a pair of short touchdown runs and Ross hit sophomore Tyrell Blanks for a 15-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left in the half.
Ross finished 15-of-21 passing for 232 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while handing the reins of the offense over to his backups for most of the second half to close out the win over Presbyterian (3-7, 1-3).
The Chants’ 642 yards Saturday is the second-best performance in program history, just 10 yards shy of the record set earlier this season at Elon. The team’s 410 rushing yards is its fourth-best all time.
And Coastal’s 10 wins is the most the program has had since 2004.
As for the conference championship, the Chants claimed their share when Charleston Southern was upset by Gardner-Webb a little after Coastal’s game had finished. The Buccaneers (10-2, 3-1) hold the tie-breaker for the league’s automatic FCS playoff bid, but they still have to beat Liberty next week to secure it – otherwise, it goes to Coastal.
Regardless, though, the Chants should be confident that their resume will net them one of the 13 at-large berths into the playoffs if need be. One way or the other, this season should have at least a couple more weeks – and possibly more – left, and Saturday was about the Chants reasserting themselves.
“We definitely needed this,” Taliaferro said. “We needed the momentum to pick back up. All throughout practice I think everyone was just feeling a little fire up under them and we just came out and took care of business.”