Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-2, 0-0 Big South)

September 28, 2012 

Breaking down the game

•  Series | Appalachian State leads 2-0

•  Weather | 64 degrees and mostly cloudy

•  Injuries | DB Datarius Allen (knee), DB Marcellus Hunter (hamstring) and WR Niccolo Mastromatteo (ribs) are questionable; LB Andre Johnson (concussion) and RB Marcus Whitener (knee) are doubtful; DE Jamel Davis (knee), DB Mark Singleton (knee), WR Adrian Sullivan (ankle) and DE Chris Thomas (knee) are out.

Key number: 302.5

Coastal Carolina senior quarterback Aramis Hillary ranks ninth among all FCS players in averaging 302.5 yards of total offense per game. Hillary is on pace for one of the top passing seasons in program history with 1,127 yards through four games and will need to be a catalyst again this week for the Chanticleers as they try to keep pace with a proficient Appalachian State offensive attack.

Key matchup

Appalachian State’s receiving quartet vs. Coastal’s secondary. The Mountaineers spread the ball out and have the personnel to complement a balanced passing attack as four different receivers have at least 13 catches and 165 yards already and all four rank among the top-15 in the Southern Conference in those categories. The Chants, meanwhile, have received inconsistent play from their cornerbacks and have been susceptible against the pass in big spots this season. They’ll have a tough challenge this week keeping the Mountaineers covered.

Quarterback

Hillary is coming off a career-best performance at Toledo, where he completed 30-of-47 passes for 356 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Chants’ 38-28 loss to the heavily-favored Rockets, and he has never looked more confident in his time with the Chants. More to the point, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude has plenty of confidence in Hillary and has opened up the offense for the senior quarterback to make big plays. … Junior quarterback Jamal Jackson has been key for Appalachian State as well, while leading the Mountaineers’ offense to four straight 400-yard efforts to open the season. After only 11 starts, Jackson is already moving up the program’s career passing leaders list with 3,137 yards. He had his best game of the season last week while throwing for 268 yards, three touchdowns and an interception at Chattanooga.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Running back

Appalachian State senior Steven Miller ranks 29th nationally in rushing while averaging 99.8 yards per game and also had a 35-yard touchdown reception last week. He became the team’s lead back following an injury to starter Rod Chisholm in the opener and had a breakout performance in the Mountaineers’ loss to The Citadel two weeks ago with 167 yards in 21 carries. … After a strong debut, Coastal’s rushing attack has been mediocre. Senior Jeremy Height (234 yards, three touchdowns) and junior Lorenzo Taliaferro (106 yards and one score) have split work in the backfield. Additionally, junior Travis Small, the team’s leading rusher last season, could see his first action of the year this week after missing time with a foot injury.

•  Edge | Appalachian State

Wide receiver/tight end

Hillary commented this week that he’d like his team’s chances against anybody in the country in a 7-on-7 drill thanks to the Chants’ stable of playmakers. Junior Matt Hazel has 20 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns, junior DeMario Bennett has 19 receptions for 232 yards and two scores and junior Niccolo Mastromatteo has 20 grabs for 214 yards and a score out of the slot. Mastromatteo missed last week’s game with a rib injury, but Patenaude was hopeful he’d be available this week as he was able to go through drills in practice Thursday. Senior tight end David Duran will also return this week from a turf toe injury. … Redshirt-freshman Sean Price has been perhaps the most impressive of Appalachian State’s productive receivers while becoming the first Appalachian State freshman with multiple 100-yard receiving games. The 6-foot-5 rookie ranks third in the conference with 233 yards even though he’s played in only two games due to disciplinary reasons.

•  Edge | Push

Offensive line

Despite some injury woes and lineup shuffling, the Mountaineers have been stingy up front while allowing only three sacks through four games. Only two FCS teams have attempted more passes than Appalachian State while allowing three or fewer sacks thus far. The team is also averaging 165.5 rushing yards per game. … As previously mentioned, Coastal’s running game has stalled a bit as the Chants are averaging only 2.85 yards per carry the last three games. The team has also allowed 10 sacks already after yielding 11 all of last season. Of course, some of that has to do with an increased emphasis on the passing game.

•  Edge | Appalachian State

Defensive line

The Mountaineers are especially young up front with a junior, sophomore and four freshmen comprising the depth chart at defensive line. Of the team’s three regular starters, only sophomore end Ronald Blair had any prior starting experience before this season. Consequently, the team has struggled against the run while allowing 218.5 yards per game on the ground. … Coastal has been fairly stout up front, holding opponents to 156 rushing yards per game – which ranks second among Big South teams.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Linebacker

Not enough can be said about the play of sophomore Quinn Backus and junior Mike McClure at linebacker for Coastal. Backus picked up his second Big South defensive player of the week honor after tallying a team-high 13 tackles while forcing and recovering a key fourth-quarter fumble at Toledo. He and McClure rank second and third, respectively, in the Big South in total tackles while averaging at least 10 per game. … And then there’s Appalachian State’s senior duo of Brandon Grier and Jeremy Kimbrough. Last week at Chattanooga, Grier had seven tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and a 70-yard interception return for touchdown. Kimbrough, meanwhile, leads the SoCon with 47 tackles through four games.

•  Edge | Push

Secondary

Senior cornerback Demetrius McCray is a playmaker in the defensive backfield for Appalachian State. He has two interceptions so far this season after nabbing five picks last year. Both of his interceptions this fall came against a ranked Montana team in a big win for the Mountaineers. Senior strong safety Troy Sanders is another productive veteran with a streak of 29 consecutive starts. … Again, Coastal doesn’t have a lockdown cornerback and has looked vulnerable at times this season. This will be an especially tough challenge for the Chants.

•  Edge | Appalachian State

Special teams

CCU coach Joe Moglia has lamented a couple of times since last Saturday the team’s lackluster stretch of special teams play in the second half at Toledo. A bad punt of 17 yards set up one Toledo touchdown and a 39-yard Rockets punt return set up another score. But for the most part, this unit has been solid for the Chants – especially sophomore Alex Catron, who is 6-of-7 on field goals so far. … That said, the Mountaineers are even stronger here. Appalachian State boasts one of the nation’s top punters in senior Sam Martin, who leads the SoCon and ranks fourth in the FCS with a 45.1-yard punting average, and a steady kicker in junior Drew Stewart. He is 12-of-15 on field goals since taking over the job last October. Junior Tony Washington handles returns for the Mountaineers and averages 25.4 yards per kickoff return.

•  Edge | Appalachian State

Intangibles

Appalachian State has won 20 of its last 21 regular-season non-conference home games and 62 of its last 68 games overall at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Mountaineers had won 18 straight regular-season home games before a 52-28 loss Sept. 15 to The Citadel. But they bounced back from that last week with a 34-17 win at Chattanooga and enter this game ranked No. 17 in The Sports Network national FCS poll. … Coastal is in the midst of its toughest stretch of schedule after losses to a ranked Eastern Kentucky team and an FBS-level Toledo squad and is playing its third road game in four weeks. The Chants felt they could have won that game at Toledo last week and made a nice impression while keeping it close into the final minutes. They’ll surely be motivated to snap their two-game skid, but the road certainly doesn’t get any easier this week.

•  Edge | Appalachian State

Pick

Appalachian State, 30-27

News and Notes

Hawthorne earning trust

Junior cornerback LaDarius Hawthorne has earned more playing time the last couple games while rotating in with seniors Tre Henderson and Dontavais Johnson and finished third on the team with nine tackles last week.

CCU defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin was reluctant to say Hawthorne has taken the starting job from Henderson, but he acknowledged his role has increased due to his consistency.

“You’ve got a three-way rotation. It’s kind of like we do with linebackers,” Carlin said. “It’s a week-to-week thing, day-to-day thing. … With LaDarius, you know what you’re going to get. He’s consistent, he works hard and there’s no surprises. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him.”

Duran to make return

Duran, who hasn’t made a catch since the season opener, is set to return this week after missing time with a turf toe injury and lingering soreness in his surgically-repaired shoulder.

It’s unclear what kind of role the senior tight end can expect against the Mountaineers, though.

“I know I’m part of the game plan, but you never really know until we get there,” he said earlier this week. “But I’m expecting to be part of the offense and be out there.”

Familiar territory

The experience Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium won’t be anything new for Hillary, who frequently attended Appalachian State home games with his family while his brother CoCo was a receiver and return specialist for the Mountaineers from 2007-10.

The Chants’ senior quarterback talked about that connection this week.

“He’s an Appalachian State graduate, so you know, he’s kind of rooting for them and talking a little smack. But I think he wants to see his little brother do good,” Hillary said of CoCo. “He’s kind of been giving me a couple tips maybe, but not much. It’s just a regular game. It’s just another Saturday to him; to me, too.

“My family’s going to be there and it’s going to be real exciting going back up there because when I was younger [I’d go] up there to watch him play. So getting a chance to play in that stadium, it’s going to be real exciting for me, but we’ve got a football game to win. It’s a regular football game, and we’ve got to go out there and win Saturday.”

For what it’s worth

Appalachian State has hosted Coastal twice before, winning 30-3 in 2005 and 45-28 in an NCAA FCS playoff game in 2006.

The Mountaineers have also won 15 straight games against current members of the Big South, while Coastal is 6-7 all-time against SoCon teams with a three-game winning streak in such matchups.

By Ryan Young, ryoung@thesunnews.com

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