CONWAY — In addition to building off its strong start to the season, the Coastal Carolina football team will have the opportunity to perhaps garner some attention and recognition nationally if it can upend a ranked Eastern Kentucky squad Saturday at Brooks Stadium.
But don’t expect that to be part of head coach Joe Moglia’s message to his players this week.
While Moglia acknowledged that Eastern Kentucky is “a better football team and has better talent than either [North Carolina] A&T or Furman” – the Chanticleers’ first two opponents – he made it very clear he doesn’t care that the Colonels are ranked No. 20 in The Sports Network FCS poll and No. 25 in the FCS Coaches Poll. Nor does he want his players focusing on that.
“Everybody knows what our goals ultimately are, but it doesn’t matter,” Moglia said Wednesday at his weekly news conference. “These guys could be the best team in the country, they could be the worst team in the country – we’ve got to get ready this week. And there are a lot of things we have to fix from last week. So the thought of national rankings, the thought of where they rank, we can’t do anything about that. And too often coaches spend too much time talking about all the stuff. It doesn’t matter what they’re ranked. It’s irrelevant. They are pretty good.”
Prodded with a follow-up question, he reiterated it’s not a factor in the team’s discussions this week – at all.
“If we spend 10 minutes on the fact that they’re ranked, that’s 10 minutes that comes away from our preparation. That’s a bad allocation of our time. It doesn’t come up. It hasn’t come up once in anything that we do.”
And at least outwardly, the Chants are following their coach’s lead.
“It doesn’t [matter] to me personally, but ask somebody else maybe. I’m just taking it as another game,” junior receiver Niccolo Mastromatteo said.
Added junior safety Philip George: “Everybody’s saying they’re ranked. It kind of puts a little red flag on them, but to the defense it’s just another offense we have to stop.”
Final thoughts on Furman
Speaking of the defense, the Chanticleers (2-0) have a few things to address on that side of the ball after allowing Furman to rally with 19 fourth-quarter points in last weekend’s wild 47-45 triple-overtime win.
Coastal is facing a 1-1 Eastern Kentucky team that rushed for 282 yards last week against Morehead State while being led by a senior running back in Matt Denham who is coming off a 1,570-yard season, and Moglia left no doubt of his concerns about how the Chants struggled to close out their game in Greenville.
“Yeah, that’s concerning for me. I want to slam my head with a shovel like 15 times. Let me be clear on this, that was a horrible breakdown,” he said. “We broke down, we missed tackles, we lost our leverage, we screwed up on assignments. That was bad, it was horrible, that was concerning. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at that, a lot of time talking about it.”
He also noted that the same Chants’ defense had allowed only one touchdown (and 19 total points) in the previous seven quarters and that there are still some growing pains to be expected for the team in its first year with the new coaching staff.
Offering his final thoughts on the win over Furman, though, he said maybe it was good for the players in the long run to go through a game like that.
“Maybe it was fortuitous that it actually went into overtime and we won it that way,” Moglia said. “... Maybe that was actually a blessing in disguise. I know everybody says ‘Well wouldn’t you rather win the other way?’ And the answer is yes, but in hindsight, maybe that does Coastal more good and our team more good over time than would have been the case if we would have just won the game comfortably in the fourth quarter.”
Senior cornerback/kick returner Tre Henderson has returned to practice after missing the game last weekend due to a hamstring injury, but he is not expected to start Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.
“Not after he’s been out two weeks, no,” Moglia said. “For him to be in the starting lineup, he would have had to have been getting more reps than he’s actually getting in practice. So he wouldn’t be ready physically, but he certainly could be able to go in there in critical situations.”
Henderson was replaced in the starting lineup last week by junior LaDarius Hawthorne, while senior running back Jeremy Height handled kickoff returns.
Tight end David Duran, meanwhile, is going to remain sidelined for a few more weeks. The sixth-year senior played a small role in the opener, but he did not log any offensive snaps last week at Furman and has been held out of practice all week due to a turf toe sprain. Moglia said the team does not expect Duran to play again until the Oct. 13 game against Stony Brook.
Moglia also made a point in his news conference Wednesday to voice his appreciation for the fans – and especially the students – who gave the Chants a strong turnout for their season opener two weeks ago, and indications are another large crowd is expected Saturday at Brooks Stadium.
“The students that came to opening day that were here in the end zone could not have been more enthusiastic, more excited, more engaged the entire game,” Moglia said. “They were phenomenal. ... I don’t care where you are, in Nebraska, Notre Dame, I don’t care, that group was as enthusiastic as the same size group anywhere in the country. They were phenomenal.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, only 500 tickets remained for Saturday’s game, according to director of athletics ticketing Michael Jacobs. He noted that only about 750 student tickets – roughly half of the available allotment – had been claimed by Wednesday, however.
It’s Family Weekend at Coastal, which traditionally is one of the Chants’ better draws of the season.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.