Coastal Carolina-Gardner-Webb game breakdown

November 2, 2012 

Breaking down the game

•  Series | Coastal Carolina leads 7-2

•  Weather | 59 degrees and sunny

Key number: 101

Gardner-Webb ranks 101st out of 121 FCS teams in total defense, allowing 440.1 yards per game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have allowed at least 40 points in five of their eight games and had allowed an average of 40.7 points per game before holding a struggling VMI team to a lone touchdown last week.

Key matchup

Coastal Carolina’s secondary vs. Gardner-Webb quarterback Lucas Beatty. The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ sophomore signal-caller is the reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 328 yards and four touchdowns against VMI. He’s also the conference’s leading passer with 1,822 yards, while throwing for eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. With a unproductive rushing game, Gardner-Webb has depended greatly on Beatty’s ability to move the offense, and while the Chanticleers’ secondary looked better last week, it’s still the team’s weak link.

Quarterback

Senior starter Aramis Hillary is going to be a game-day decision after sustaining a neck injury last week against Liberty. As of Thursday, he had not practiced, but coach Joe Moglia said that would not be a concern if the Big South’s leader in total offense (257.2 yards per game) was ready to go by kickoff. If not, redshirt-freshman Alex Ross will make his first career start. Ross has attempted just 17 passes so far, but he’s looked poised in his limited opportunities and has two touchdowns. … Beatty has been one of the conference’s most improved players and passed Hillary last week as the Big South’s passing leader with those 1,822 yards. Half his touchdown passes for the season, though, came last week.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Running back

These teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum in regard to rushing offense. Coastal is surging with three straight 200-yard rushing games led by senior Jeremy Height, who is averaging 7.3 yards per carry over that span while running for at least 89 yards in each of those contests. Gardner-Webb, meanwhile, ranks next-to-last in the conference with an average of 82.9 yards per game collectively to go with a league-low 2.4 yards per carry. Senior Kenny Little (383 yards, three touchdowns) and sophomore Juanne Blount (352/5) have split carries almost evenly for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Wide receiver/tight end

Junior Matt Hazel ranks third in the Big South with 466 receiving yards while junior DeMario Bennett ranks fifth on that list with 416 yards, giving Coastal the most productive pair of outside receivers in the league. The Chants are also deep with passing targets, as they’ve shown all season. … Gardner-Webb sophomore Kenny Cook is having a breakout season with 32 catches for 452 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foor-4 newcomer joined the Runnin’ Bulldogs this season as a junior college transfer and hauled in five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns last week against VMI. Beatty has spread the ball around well, though, as four Runnin’ Bulldogs rank in the top-10 among Big South receivers this year – including 6-foot-4 sophomore tight end Seth Cranfill, whose 33 catches lead all tight ends in the league.

•  Edge | Push

Offensive line

Sophomore Kevin Hart was solid in his first start replacing injured junior left guard Jamey Cheatwood as the Coastal offensive line continued to open up big running lanes last week. The Chants averaged an impressive 5.8 yards per carry in 39 attempts against Liberty and didn’t allow a sack. … In addition to its struggles in the rushing game, Gardner-Webb has allowed a league-worst 24 sacks

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Defensive line

This might be Gardner-Webb’s most experienced position group, led by a pair of two-time All-Big South selections in junior tackle Matt Goods (4.5 tackles for loss, 30 tackles) and junior end Preston Pemasa (5.5 tackles for loss, 32 tackles). ... Coastal, meanwhile, has shown its most improvement in rush defense, holding VMI to 16 rushing yards and a normally-productive Liberty ground attack to 86 yards the last two weeks and a share of the credit certainly goes to the defensive line.

•  Edge | Push

Linebacker

Three of the Big South’s best linebackers will be on the field Saturday. Gardner-Webb sophomore Tanner Burch leads the conference with 102 total stops, ranking second among all FCS players with 12.8 tackles per game, while Coastal sophomore Quinn Backus (11.2 tackles per game) and junior Mike McClure (7.8) rank second and fourth on that list, respectively. Backus has been named the league’s defensive player of the week four times and is the front-runner for Big South Defensive Player of the Year honors.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Secondary

Coastal’s beleaguered secondary came up with two interceptions last week, including a pivotal 66-yard interception return for touchdown in the first quarter by junior LaDarius Hawthorne. The Chants still rank near the bottom of the league in pass defense, though, giving up 230.9 yards per game through the air. The only team worse? Yep, Gardner-Webb, which is allowing 251.1 passing yards per game. Junior free safety Gianni Olivas has been a nice player for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, though, and has two interceptions, a forced fumble and three tackles for loss this season.

•  Edge | Push

Special teams

The Runnin’ Bulldogs have an especially proficient return game led by sophomore J.J. Hubbard, who is averaging 25.6 yards on five punt returns and 24.1 yards on kickoff returns. Sophomore Trever Austin kicked four field goals in the team’s win over Coastal last year, but he has been shaky this season and is just 7-of-13 on field goals. Senior Bo Lindsey is averaging a Big South-best 43.2 yards per punt. … Senior Tre Henderson is Coastal’s all-time leader in kickoff return yards and is averaging 34.1 yards per return in nine attempts this year. Sophomore Alex Catron is 7-of-9 on field goals for the Chants, and sophomore Austin Cain is averaging 37.0 yards per punt.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Intangibles

Give the Runnin’ Bulldogs credit, despite being 1-6 entering last week they showed plenty of fight while dismantling VMI, 38-7. But in its second year under coach Ron Dickerson Jr., this Gardner-Webb team has not shown much if any progress after going 4-7 last season (with a 26-24 upset over Coastal at Brooks Stadium). Coastal, on the other hand, is playing its best football of the season and coming off two lopsided Big South wins (34-7 at VMI and 36-12 over Liberty). The Chants still have an outside shot at the conference championship if Liberty can win out and upset Stony Brook to force a three-way tie atop the standings. Coastal would claim the tiebreaker in that scenario if it too wins out as the title would be decided by road wins in conference.

•  Edge | Coastal Carolina

Pick

Coastal Carolina, 31-15

News and Notes

Hillary or Ross

As of Thursday evening, Moglia was still unsure who his starting quarterback would be for this game.

As long as Hillary is ready to go by game time, though, he’ll get the nod. Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude had expressed optimism earlier in the week that the senior starter would indeed be ready to go after sustaining a mild neck injury last weekend, but the veteran was a spectator in practice all week.

Hillary did make the trip with the team, though.

“He’s been at every meeting. He’s been at every practice. He’s been able to take mental reps every place that he’s been, so the fact that he’s missed three days of actually taking reps, that shouldn’t effect him,” Moglia said Thursday after practice.

Ross, the team’s promising redshirt-freshman backup, said earlier in the week he’s confident he can get the job done if called upon.

“I think I just stay poised out there and calm and confident,” Ross said of his opportunities to this point. “I just go out there and play like I’m the starter.”

Height closing in

Height, Coastal’s senior running back, needs 42 yards to break the program’s single-season record for all-purpose yardage. Patrick Hall set the mark with 1,166 total yards on the way to being named the 2004 Big South Offensive Player of the Year.

With 1,125 yards through eight games, Height is on pace to surpass the 1,500-yard mark.

“It’s a great accomplishment to break the record if I do, but to me it’s really not about that,” Height said. “It’s about getting the Ws in the win column. We still have a chance to make the playoffs.”

Replacing Sampson

Freshman free safety Richie Sampson was just settling in as a starter for Coastal and had a great game last week with a sack, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Junior Tyler McCarthy is listed as the starter at that spot this week while junior Philip George, who opened the season as a starter before moving to cornerback, will also contribute. McCarthy has worked exclusively as a reserve this season.

By Ryan Young, ryoung@thesunnews.com

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