CONWAY, S.C. - Following a victory over Georgia Southern last season, then-Coastal Carolina interim head coach Jamey Chadwell mused that his team “probably could have scored more” if it had wanted to.
Now the Chanticleers’ associate head coach and offensive coordinator, Chadwell likely wishes he knew where to find some of those points he left off the scoreboard in 2017.
Coastal scored on its first two drives of the night, only to go punchless as Georgia Southern rattled off 38 consecutive points en route to a 41-17 victory Saturday night at Brooks Stadium.
The Eagles (8-3, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) exploded for 409 rushing yards on the night, with 440 total yards of offense. Following its quick opening spurt, Coastal (5-6, 2-5) was totally shut down, gaining just 38 yards in the second half..
“It was very important to get back to our roots and what has been successful for us this season,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “We didn’t want to worry about results. We wanted to focus on the process. That led to us executing well. We got the ball to playmakers and they made big plays.”
Despite the huge rushing numbers, the Eagles were able to spread the wealth evenly. Wesley Fields led the way with 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but was the only Eagle to top the century mark in yardage. Monteo Garrett rushed for 75 yards and a score and Logan Wright racked up 72 yards and found the end zone once.
Werts provided a fifth rushing touchdown and connected on four of his six passes for 33 yards to account for 71 yards of total offense..
“We were really feeling it and got the momentum going early,” Fields said. “The offensive line blocked great all night and we all had room to run. That’s the kind of game we expect to play all the time.”
Early on, the Eagles were a bit antsy.
After two weeks of watching UL Monroe and Troy launch seemingly unending scoring drives, the Chanticleers took the game’s opening kickoff and methodically drove 75 yards. Coastal converted on several third downs and a fourth down before Isaiah Likely hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Fred Payton to cap a 7:30 drive.
Georgia Southern answered with a 44-yard field goal and Coastal extended its advantage to 10-3 on a 35-yard field goal by Massimo Biscardi, but that was just about the end of the good news on the night for coastal.
“Early on, I felt good about what we could do,” Lunsford said. “Even on our first drive when we settled for a field goal, I think we saw what we would be able to do. Once the defense locked down, the offense got going and we played very well in all phases of the game.”
Werts tied the game at 10-10 with a 12-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. The Eagle defense forced a fumble — which Raymond Johnson III pounced on — and a 20-yard field goal by Bass allowed the Eagles to take a 13-10 lead into halftime.
Georgia Southern hit the afterburners in the second half.
The Eagles needed just five plays to go 71 yards to get the third quarter started. Garrett highlighted the drive with a 55-yard run down the right side and Fields marched untouched through the middle for a 6-yard touchdown.
The teams traded punts over the next three possessions before the Eagles’ Wesleys went to work. Wesley Kennedy III carried twice for 32 yards before Fields took three consecutive handoffs, the third going for a 2-yard scoring plunge and a 27-10 lead late in the third quarter.
By then, the Eagle defense smelled blood in the water.
Payton and Kilton Anderson combined to go just 12-of-24 for 115 yards through the air and the Chanticleers rushed for only 74 yards as a team.
“We were playing fast and motivated,” GS linebacker Chris Harris - who recorded nine tackles - said. “Even when they scored early, we could see that they were doing exactly what we were coached on all week. We just had to make the plays.”
Wright turned the Eagle lead into a full-on route with under a minute to go in the third quarter when he powered through a pair of tackles before breaking into open space and outrunning the Coastal secondary for a 59-yard touchdown romp.
Garrett capped the Eagles’ scoring early in the fourth quarter. Georgia Southern nearly shut out CCU over the final three quarters, but a fumble by the Eagles’ offensive reserves late in the fourth quarter handed the ball to the Chanticleers deep in GS territory and Kilton found Likely on an 8-yard touchdown toss with 1:08 to play.
With the win, the Eagles still have a chance to reach 10 wins this season. Georgia Southern will stay on the road, making the trip up to Atlanta to take on Georgia State next Saturday in the regular season finale.
Coastal Carolina is now in desperation mode. A month ago, the Chanticleers stood at 5-3, needing just one more win to become bowl-eligible for the first time in school history. Three consecutive losses now means that Coastal will have to win its finale at South Alabama if it wants any shot of making a bowl game.