CONWAY — Coastal Carolina football coach Joe Moglia commented that Stony Brook had likely put its emphasis defensively this week on stopping the Chanticleers’ productive passing attack and therefore might have been a bit surprised by how well the Chants moved the ball on the ground Saturday.
For that matter, many Coastal followers were probably surprised as well.
After entering the day with the 90th-ranked rushing offense in the FCS at 114.2 yards per game, the Chants ran for a season-high 201 yards against a rather stout Stony Brook defense as senior Jeremy Height and juniors Lorenzo Taliaferro and Travis Small all turned in impressive efforts.
“You’re not going to be able to move the ball against a team like Stony Brook if you can’t move the ball effectively on the ground,” Moglia said. “... I think they were pretty well prepared to kind of stop us from a passing perspective, but we [ran] the ball pretty well.”
Height led the way with 89 yards in 15 carries, and Taliaferro continues to impress, shaking off tacklers and plowing forward for extra yards after contact. He finished with 53 yards in nine carries, including a long run of 25 yards on the Chants’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
For Small, meanwhile, it was his first action of the year after missing most of preseason camp and the first five games with a foot injury. He ran for 32 yards in seven carries while showing the same burst that helped him lead the team in rushing a season ago, and afterward he said he’s finally feeling 100 percent healthy again.
“It’s a bittersweet moment,” he said. “It feels great to be back out there to contribute to the team and do what I can do, but at the same time we didn’t come out with the win.”
Sampson gets starting nod
Freshman safety Richie Sampson moved into the starting lineup Saturday in place of junior Philip George, and Moglia said the promising rookie will remain with the first-team going forward.
“I think he’s earned a starting spot,” Moglia said. “He’s been outstanding in all of our special teams, he’s been really solid as a backup, so one of the things we talked about last week was we want to make sure that our best guys who have been performing the best are on the field.”
Sampson’s debut as a starter didn’t go ideally, though. He was beat in the end zone on Stony Brook’s first touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Kyle Essington to Jordan Gush, and was in coverage on Seawolves standout Kevin Norrell in the second quarter when he made a highlight-worthy touchdown grab in the end zone.
Still, Moglia likes the potential of the 6-foot-2 freshman from Kennett Square, Penn.
“Sampson was one heck of a high school athlete both offensively and defensively,” Moglia said. “And when we realized we didn’t have much depth at all on the defensive side of the ball, he was one of the guys we talked to. He scored like a gazillion touchdowns in high school. I said, ‘How do you feel about going over to defense and potentially strong safety?’ He said, ‘Coach, if I’ve got more of an opportunity to help our team that way I’d be happy to do it, and if I can get in the lineup a little earlier, I’d be glad to do it.’”
“He’d be a good running back too, but I’m pretty sure we found a home for him on defense.”
Junior DeMario Bennett had a career-high 91 receiving yards. ... Senior quarterback Aramis Hillary went over 270 passing yards for the fourth time this season. ... Sophomore safety Pernell Williams led the Chants with a game-high 13 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Quinn Backus had at least 10 tackles (12) for the fifth time in six games. ... And senior Tre Henderson now needs 14 kickoff return yards to break the Chants’ career record in that category.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.