As the Coastal Carolina football team was putting a scare into FBS foe Toledo last Saturday, junior Niccolo Mastromatteo was stuck watching from the sidelines after being a late scratch from the game due to sore ribs.
As tough as it was for Mastromatteo to be a mere spectator, and as much as the Chanticleers would have liked to have their speedy slot receiver on the field, the decision was made to play it safe with the Big South Conference schedule looming.
And for that reason, his status remains undecided for the Chants’ game at No. 17-ranked Appalachian State this week as well.
“Similar situation -- just take it one day at a time, just go from there,” Mastromatteo said Monday. “Hopefully I’ll be good to go.”
The 5-foot-9 junior has been a breakout performer for the Chants (2-2) this season. After having just one career catch while making his mark as a return specialist the last couple years, Mastromatteo has 20 catches for 214 yards through his first three games.
He said he had a feeling a couple days before the Toledo game that he would likely be relegated to the sideline, but the official decision was not made until Saturday afternoon.
“It was tough. I really wanted to play,” he said. “I feel for the people who have been sitting out for games. It’s tough to see how they feel until you’re put in that situation.”
Mastromatteo said tests confirmed he doesn’t have any broken ribs, but the team will continue to be cautious. The injury occurred on a hard hit late in the team’s game against Eastern Kentucky two Saturdays ago. Mastromatteo briefly came out of the game before returning to the field to finish it off.
CCU head coach Joe Moglia confirmed Mastromatteo’s status for this week remains in doubt.
“I’d say yes, but I hope not,” Moglia said Monday.
Blanks makes his mark
Meanwhile, Mastromatteo’s absence gave true freshman Tyrell Blanks an opportunity to make his mark out of the slot Saturday, and that’s just what he did.
Blanks, who had five catches through the first three games, responded with six catches for 78 yards and a big fourth-quarter touchdown at Toledo.
“He’s still a freshman, and that’s Niccolo’s job,” Moglia said. “But what Tyrell does have is he’s very explosive, very, very quick and those things will hopefully wind up helping us. And he did an excellent job considering he’s a freshman.”
Blanks, a 6-foot, 160-pound rookie, hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from senior Aramis Hillary with 8:41 remaining as the Chants cut Toledo’s lead to 31-28 at the time. He finished as the team’s second-leading receiver in the game.
“I felt pretty good, but I feel like I could have played better than what I did and helped the team win,” Blanks said.
Players of the week
The Chants are just four games into the season, but already Hillary and sophomore linebacker Quinn Backus are repeat recipients of the Big South’s weekly player of the week awards.
Hillary earned his second offensive player of the week nod after completing 30-of-47 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 38-28 loss to the Rockets.
That marked the third-highest passing total in program history and set school records for completions and attempts in a game.
Backus, meanwhile, helped the Chants (2-2) earn Big South defensive player of the week honors for the third time in four games with his second award in three weeks. He had a team-high 13 tackles (nine solo) and also forced and recovered a key fumble in the fourth quarter that helped Coastal make it a three-point game at the time.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.