Coastal Carolina football coach Joe Moglia wasn’t ready to talk about the playoffs Saturday, but it’s no doubt on the minds of the team’s players and fans now that the Chanticleers have finished their FCS schedule.
At 10-1 heading into the regular-season finale at FBS foe South Carolina next weekend, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Chants don’t find their way into the 24-team NCAA FCS playoff field.
Either with one of 13 available at-large berths or maybe even with the Big South’s automatic bid, if they get some outside help next week.
Charleston Southern, which controlled its own playoff fate after beating Coastal last week, was upset by Gardner-Webb on Saturday, creating a three-way tie atop the conference standings between the Buccaneers, Chants and Liberty.
Charleston Southern hosts Liberty next Saturday, and the outcome of that game will decide who gets the automatic playoff berth. If the Buccaneers win, it’s theirs and Coastal must rely on its strong resume to earn an at-large selection. If Liberty wins, the Flames and Chants finish tied for the league crown and Coastal claims the tiebreaker by virtue of its win in the head-to-head meeting last month.
If they make it through either of those avenues, it would be the Chants’ third FCS playoff appearance in four years, the second straight under Moglia and the fourth in program history.
“We’re going to enjoy this win,” Moglia said. “We’re going to appreciate, frankly, what’s happened and then we’ll get ready for next week’s game. After we have an idea of what’s going on in the playoffs, we’ll address that. We don’t know what’s going to happen so we’re not going to jump around like little kids and [say], ‘Oh boy, we’re going to the playoffs.’ We don’t think that way.”
Hazel adds to legacy
Asked his thoughts on breaking Jerome Simpson’s program record for career receptions, senior wide receiver Matt Hazel thought back to the hard work that contributed to his feat.
He smiled and talked about sophomore quarterback Alex Ross coaxing him out in the rain during the offseason to run routes and spoke of the connection they have developed in their second season together.
And on Saturday, the two connected seven times for 119 yards as Hazel pushed his career total to 162 receptions in 45 games, moving him one past Simpson.
“It’s great. I really wasn’t thinking about it until the announcer announced it,” Hazel said of the record. “It wasn’t really running through my head, but it’s a great feeling to be considered one of the best to come through this university.”
It was Hazel’s third 100-yard game of the season and he now has five of the program’s top 13 single-game receiving performances.
Senior LaDarius Hawthorne has had a special teams season that would be hard for anyone to replicate, and he just keeps delivering big plays.
On Saturday, Hawthorne recorded this third blocked field goal of the season late in the second quarter. That’s a Coastal record and one shy of the Big South record.
“We have different schemes that we use and [assistant] coach [Doug] Colman does a good job of drawing them up,” Hawthorne said. “That’s the first thing we work on [at] practice. We do two or three periods of field goal block and that’s about 15 minutes of our practice, so we take pride in going out there and trying to take away field goals.”
Senior slot receiver Niccolo Mastromatteo (ankle) missed his second straight game. He was in uniform and Moglia said he could have played, but they opted to hold him out.
Redshirt-freshman cornerback Samson Baldwin also missed the game with a shoulder injury, while freshman safety Alex Scearce (leg) saw limited action after missing three games.
Coastal’s 642-yard offensive outing – second-best in program history – was the fourth game this season the Chants have topped 600 yards. The team’s 61 rushing attempts, meanwhile, is fifth-most in program history while the 410 rushing yards is fourth-most all time. The 293 yards allowed is the second-lowest total for the Coastal defense this season. Hampton had just 278 against the Chants.