CONWAY — Having reviewed the tape of Coastal Carolina’s 35-17 loss Saturday night to No. 20-ranked Eastern Kentucky, coach Joe Moglia said he actually thought the Chanticleers played pretty well – better even than in their win at Furman the previous week.
But there was one play that still gnawed at him.
The pivotal swing in the game came late in the second quarter when Coastal’s trick pass completion on a fake field goal left the team just short of a first down, giving Eastern Kentucky possession. Two plays later, the Colonels were ahead 21-7 after a 77-yard touchdown pass as senior cornerback Tre Henderson misread the route in an attempt to vie for an interception and instead left his receiver wide open behind the defense.
That play, that miscue and that moment in the game lingered in Moglia’s thoughts Sunday as the team returned to practice.
“You’re not going to find that I say a lot of this over time, but I’m going to say this time,” Moglia said. “Let’s just say the one thing that shouldn’t have happened was us giving up a 77-yard touchdown before halftime. It should not have happened. It was a horrific mental error and a horrible technique mistake. OK, so I’m going to give you a handful of scenarios.”
Had the Chants gotten the first down spot on that fake field goal pass, they would have been on the Colonels’ 17 and in prime position to potentially score a game-tying touchdown, he suggested. That coupled with a stop on defense and the touchdown Coastal did eventually score at the start of the third quarter would have given the Chants a 21-14 lead.
Or, he said, even if they don’t get the first down but at least stop Eastern Kentucky’s offense, they could have tied the game with that touchdown to open the third quarter. Or the Chants don’t go for the fake, kick the field goal, don’t allow the long pass play and then score in the third quarter to go up 17-14.
“Had any one of those scenarios – which all are very real – taken place, I think you have a very, very different game,” Moglia said. “… I don’t know if we would have won the game, I’m not suggesting that, but it would have been more of a dogfight. If you take a look at the statistics and you take away the [77-yard] pass, it’s pretty even.”
That’s not what happened, though. Eastern Kentucky pulled away in the second half and dealt the Chants (2-1) their first loss as they now look to shore up some of the defensive woes that have caused concern the last two weeks.
“At the end of the day, they certainly deserved the win,” Moglia said of Eastern Kentucky. “[But] looking at the film, it was a much more competitive game than I felt at the end of the game it was.”
Senior quarterback Aramis Hillary reiterated comments made after the game by his teammates that the Chants are ready to move on and look ahead to their road game at FBS foe Toledo this week.
“They were a good football team. We’re a good football team. It’s not that they were that much better than us, but last night they were obviously better than us,” Hillary said of the loss to the Colonels. “We felt like we could have played with them. Just a couple of mistakes that we made were kind of critical in the game. But we’ve got a good vibe still. Everybody’s still got a good sense of humor, a good vibe to it and we’re going to go out there and try to win next week.”
Coastal is now without two of its top defensive ends as senior Jamel Davis joins senior Chris Thomas on the injury report with a knee strain that will likely sideline him for several weeks.
Davis injured his knee in the second quarter Saturday night and did not return. While Moglia hadn’t gotten official confirmation yet from head trainer Jeff Pounds that Davis had escaped a ligament tear, he said Sunday evening that indications were the injury is a just a strain.
“He’s got an ACL strain, and usually when those things happen it’s two, three weeks,” Moglia said. “So my guess is hopefully he’s able to come back after the [bye week], but we don’t know that for sure.”
Thomas, meanwhile, is expected to miss the rest of the season after sustaining a torn ligament in his knee during the Furman game. A preseason All-Big South selection, Thomas ranked third on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss last fall.
That leaves the Chants a bit thin at defensive end, and they decided to use true freshman Roderick Holder for about 15 snaps against Eastern Kentucky, meaning he can’t be redshirted this season. Moglia said the coaches still needed to discuss how they’ll adjust, though.
“We’re going to have a meeting on that tonight, and we’re going to talk about that a little bit,” he said. “There’s always a possibility we could even take an offensive guy and move him over, but we don’t have a lot of depth on the offensive line to be able to do that although we have a couple of guys who might be OK on that side of the ball. We could always go a little bit more with our stack look, which is a little bit more of a 30 or an odd look, but we’re going to have that conversation today.”
Hillary reported no lingering effects from the hard hit to the head he took in the third quarter Saturday night that forced him to miss one series while being tested on the sidelines, and Moglia confirmed the senior quarterback will be good to go this week.
The hit occurred at the end of a six-yard rush on the first play of the second half, but Hillary was able to return the following offensive series.
“As I was going down, the guy kind of put his head to my head, but it’s all right,” he said. “It’s a physical game. It’s a man’s game.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.