Coastal Carolina came into Saturday’s matchup with Georgia Southern 4-0 on the season and ranked 24th in the country. The Eagles have proved to play tough against Sun Belt teams that are ranked prior to playing the Eagles. Saturday the Chanticleers lived up to their ranking as they outgained the Eagles 382-218 and shut the Eagle offense down on the way to a 28-14 victory.
“I’m very disappointed with our performance,” said Georgia Southern Coach Chad Lunsford. “We got out coached, out played, we got our butts kicked plain and simple.We were in the game coming out of halftime, but Coastal wanted it more than we did, and hats off to them. We got dominated and that’s all there is.”
With the game tied at 14-14 at the half, the game ended up coming down to a two-minute span in the fourth quarter. Coastal was able to score on a 24-yard pass from Payton to C.J. Marable, the Eagle offense then went three and out, and then the Chanticleers scored on a 20-yard Reese White touchdown to seal the deal.
“Momentum is a huge thing,” said Lunsford. “I thought they grabbed it with that score. We really needed to do something then on offense, but we put our defense right back on the field, and they scored again. I felt like we had some momentum after scoring there before halftime, but we just didn’t carry it over to the second half.”
The Chanticleers revealed a huge loss prior to kickoff, as it was announced that quarterback Grayson McCall would miss the game because of an upper body injury. McCall has passed for nearly 1,000 yards and is the Chanticleers second leading rusher.
Backup quarterback Fred Payton proved to be up for the task as he threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Payton accounted for some big plays for the Chanticleer offense in the first half, including his 72-yard touchdown pass to Sam Denmark, and a 54-yard pass to Javion Heiligh which led to the second score of the half.
“I really felt like our defense played pretty good in the first half,” said Lunsford. “The two long passes we had miscommunication with the secondary that allowed them to get those two first half scores.”
The Chanticleer defense was even tougher on the Eagle offense. The only score the Eagles were able to muster on offense was a 5-yard touchdown run by J.D. King late in the first half. That was set up after quarterback Shai Werts connected with Malik Murray on a 3rd and 7 with a 32-yard pass to the Coastal 5-yard line.
The only other score the Eagles had in the first half came on an incredible 60-yard punt return for a touchdown by Wesley Kennedy. Kennedy bobbled the ball and then went straight up the middle, before cutting to the near sidelines where he picked up a convoy of blockers and went the rest of the way for the score to tie the game at 7-7.
“Our defense held up their end, but we really struggled offensively,” said quarterback Shai Werts. “I felt like we came out kind of flat and never really got things going. Their defense came to play, they have some good playmakers, and they came to play. I’m going to take my blame, go and look at the film and figure out what I can do better.”
“It was a tough loss to a good team,” said Werts. “Now we have to turn around and get better, and play well on a short week against South Alabama.”
Werts took some of the blame for leaving the defense out on the field too long, but Eagle linebacker Rashad Byrd felt they didn’t hold up on their end either.
“I don’t care how long we are on the field, it’s our job to hold them to three and out,” said Eagle linebacker Rashad Byrd. “If they don’t score they don’t win. We gave up some big plays, and we can’t do that. It wasn’t our offense’s fault, we had our chances. We let them convert too many third and longs. When we have them in that position we have to put our foot on their necks and not let them up.”
“Offensively we didn’t really piss a drop until we finally scored there before the end of the first half,” said Lunsford. “Offensively we really could have helped our defense, but we didn’t and that is something we need to address this week.
It’s a short week for the Eagles who now fall to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in Sun Belt play. Georgia Southern hosts South Alabama Thursday at 7:30 at Paulson Stadium.