TOLEDO, Ohio — Considered a decided underdog entering the game, Coastal Carolina found itself in the midst of an impressive – if not stunning – upset bid in the second half Saturday night at FBS foe Toledo.
But the Chanticleers didn’t quite have enough to pull off what would have been among the biggest wins in program history, and when it was over, they weren’t satisfied with just a close call and an effort that surely turned a lot of heads nonetheless.
The Chants seized a third-quarter lead and delivered plenty of fourth-quarter drama, but the Rockets pulled away in the end for a 38-28 win before an announced crowd 19,023 at the Glass Bowl.
“People get caught up in all the [talk about] big school and little school, but our whole mindset is we all do the same thing. We all play football,” CCU sophomore linebacker Quinn Backus said afterward. “So we feel we can step out on the field and compete with anybody in the country.”
Coastal is now 0-6 all-time in games against FBS-level competition, but this one was certainly far different than the others. After scoring just 13 combined points in those previous five FBS games over the last several years, the Chants cut Toledo’s lead to 31-28 with 8:41 remaining Saturday night before the Rockets reclaimed control for good.
Backus had forced and recovered a Toledo fumble at the hosts’ 36, and senior quarterback Aramis Hillary threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to freshman Tyrell Blanks on a big third down play for Coastal (2-2) to make it a three-point game.
But that’s as close as it would get. The Rockets (3-1) -- who won nine games last year and were listed by at least one sports gambling website as 29-point favorites Saturday night -- pushed their lead back to 10 points as Cordale Scott caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Owens with 4:59 remaining to cap the scoring in a wild back-and-forth affair.
“Our guys didn’t come up here hoping we were going to win; our guys came up here with an attitude that we were going to go after this and give it everything we had,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said. “If we do that and we don’t make too many mistakes and we do a little bit better job in the special teams, we’ve got shots at winning these types of games as opposed to just [being satisfied with] playing well.
“But at the end of the day, all we’ve ever asked the guys is to give it everything they’ve got and put a team on the field that Coastal’s going to be proud of. I think we did that tonight.”
Hillary had connected with junior DeMario Bennett on a 19-yard touchdown strike on the opening drive of the second half as the Chants took a 21-17 lead, but it didn’t last long.
Two possessions later, Toledo took over at the CCU 40 after a short punt and needed just five plays to find the end zone. Owens hit junior Bernard Reedy for a 14-yard gain on third-and-10 to keep the drive going and capped it with an 8-yard rush of his own as the Rockets went back ahead, 24-21.
They cushioned that lead later in the quarter after Reedy’s 39-yard punt return gave the hosts possession at the CCU 18. Two plays later, sophomore Cassius McDowell rushed in from 6 yards out to help put Toledo ahead 31-21 before the Chants’ final surge.
Overall, Coastal outgained Toledo with 432 yards to the Rockets’ 402 in an impressive offensive showing.
The Chants had scored the first points of the night after Toledo missed a 36-yard field goal try on its opening possession and Hillary led the offense 80 yards in eight plays for the early go-ahead score – a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Jeremy Height.
Toledo had taken a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Chants launched another long scoring drive to keep things close. Hillary hit redshirt-freshman tight end Thomas Pauciello for a 25-yard touchdown strike down the seam on third-and-one as Coastal drew to within 17-14.
The Chants had a chance to go for a potential game-tying field goal later in the half, but Moglia opted to keep his offense on the field for a fourth-and-one play from the Toledo 16. Hillary kept the ball and came up short of the first down before eventually putting his team ahead – albeit briefly – in the third quarter.
Hillary finished 30-of-47 passing for a career-high 356 yards and three touchdowns, but like his teammates, he wasn’t satisfied with the outcome.
“A loss is a loss,” Hillary said. “We were definitely in it, and we had a chance to win and we just didn’t make the plays at the end of the game.”
His coach had the same tenor in his voice afterward, encouraged by the positives but not content. It’s four games into Moglia’s tenure as Coastal’s head coach, and as he said, there’s still work to do.
“I don’t think we surprised ourselves,” Moglia said. “We’ve got to keep growing as a team. I think we know that we’re reasonably effective moving the ball, but we can’t make mistakes, we can’t turn the ball over. We had too many penalties tonight and that hurt us. From the defensive perspective, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to do in terms of improving. ... I was proud of our effort and I was proud of the team that we put on the field for Coastal Carolina, but we still have a ways to go and we need to make sure that we understand that.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.