In the scope of how football coaches normally discuss upcoming opponents, Coastal Carolina’s Joe Moglia was rather candid in his weekly media address on Wednesday.
Yes, he acknowledged, the Chanticleers are the logical favorites this week – for the first time in a while – and no, the VMI team they’re about to play Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Va., is not on par with the challenges they’ve faced the last four or five games.
For that reason, there’s no more room for close calls or encouraging efforts for this Chants team. Looking to snap the first four-game losing streak in program history, Coastal very simply needs a victory in a game it’s supposed to win.
And for that matter, the same could be said for most of the remaining five games now that its most daunting stretch of the schedule is past.
“There isn’t any question that the toughness of the first six games versus the last five games, there is a significant difference there,” Moglia said. “I think everybody recognizes that and we certainly understand that. [But] if we lose sight of one opponent versus another opponent, anything can happen.”
Coastal (2-4, 0-1 Big South) and VMI (2-4, 1-1) have comparable records, but the teams have been on far different paths to this point.
The Chants have played three ranked FCS teams and an FBS opponent in the last four games and are coming off well-contested 27-21 loss to No. 11 Stony Brook. One website that tracks such things – WarrenNolan.com – ranks their strength of schedule 14th nationally among FCS teams.
The Keydets, on the other hand, picked up one of their two wins over Division II Chowan and are coming off a devastating 32-14 loss at Charleston Southern – devastating in the sense that the Buccaneers were winless last season and one of the few teams on the schedule that VMI could realistically circle as a likely victory.
The Chants, meanwhile, will be looking to avoid a similar slip-up Saturday.
“VMI’s an important team for us to take seriously for a lot of reasons,” Moglia said. “VMI is not as strong as a number of the teams that we’ve been playing up until now, but we have not beaten the teams we’ve played up until now. … The military academies, I have always had incredible respect for them. They are smart, tough, disciplined kids that don’t give up.”
Nonetheless, this is a game Coastal should win. VMI ranks last in the Big South in scoring (12.3 points per game) and total offense (278.5 yards per game) and has not topped 17 points against an FCS opponent. The Chants rank third in the league in both of those categories in averaging 26 points and 398 yards per game.
With the loss to Stony Brook last week, Coastal is going to need somebody else to knock off the Seawolves to have a chance at winning the conference and the Big South’s automatic playoff berth. But it’s at least possible given the tiebreaker system in place. In the event of a three-way tie between one-loss teams with wins over each other, the league champion would be decided by step four of the tiebreaker process, which is road wins in conference play. If Coastal can win its last five games and be unbeaten in league road games and Stony Brook somehow falters, the door is open.
But that starts with the Chants taking care of their business.
“We’ve got to run the table,” junior offensive lineman Jamey Cheatwood said plainly. “We still have hope to make the playoffs providing Stony Brook can slip up, but we can only control what we can control. We’ve got to run the table and at least have that opportunity.”
That said, it’s been six weeks since Coastal last won a game, so the Chants need not be looking too far ahead just yet.
“I think we’ve proved we can play with the best teams – it’s just been unfortunate at the end of the game,” senior defensive end Dominique Whiteside said. “So there hasn’t been too much we’ve had to change and the chemistry is still getting stronger.”
The Chants have turned the corner in their schedule, and on Saturday, they’ll have the opportunity to show whether they’ve done the same on the field.
“Had this team played those same four games with another year of preparation, I think you would have had a different outcome,” Cheatwood said, looking back on the recently completed stretch. “Because I think we all agree that we were in those games except for [Appalachian State], and I know App State’s not that many points better than us. … But it’s tough. We’re on a losing streak right now. We’ve got to fight back and win a game.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.