Key moment | It was one thing for Gardner-Webb to score on its opening possession, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs really made a statement when senior Kenny Little opened the team’s second drive with a 78-yard touchdown run up the middle. It was the longest rush of the season for Gardner-Webb and gave the home team a 13-6 lead.
The man | Little. He finished the first quarter with 107 yards in six carries, which was especially impressive considering Gardner-Webb entered the day averaging 89.2 rushing yards per game as a team.
Key moment | Redshirt-freshman quarterback Alex Ross made his first big mistake midway through the second quarter when he was intercepted by Gardner-Webb linebacker Brian Wittenberger on the first play of a drive that started at the 50. But on Coastal Carolina’s next possession, he atoned with a 60-yard touchdown pass to junior DeMario Bennett. Ross threw a strike to Bennett on the ride sideline, and Bennett made a nice pivot move to lose the nearby defender and turn the play into the Chanticleers’ longest pass completion of the season (at the time) as the visitors went ahead 27-20.
The man | Ross. He wasn’t perfect and missed a few open receivers, but the rookie started well enough in his first collegiate start replacing injured senior Aramis Hillary. He completed 12-of-22 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception in the first half and had another potential long gain at the end of the half dropped after a perfect throw to junior Matt Hazel close to the goal line.
Key moment | On Coastal’s first drive of the second half, Ross threw a short pass to junior Niccolo Mastromatteo that would end up going for an 81-yard touchdown – this time breaking the mark as the longest pass play in program history. The credit goes to Mastromatteo, though. After catching the ball, he juked Gardner-Webb’s Exavier Johnson – normally the team’s backup quarterback who was making his first start at safety – to the ground and then eluded another tackler on his way down the sideline and into the end zone. That gave the Chants a 34-20 lead at the time.
The man | Coastal senior Quinton Davis. The veteran defensive end notched two sacks on Gardner-Webb’s last drive of the third quarter, including one for a 15-yard loss on third down. The Chants were protecting a 34-33 lead at the time and would use some late defensive momentum to pull away down the stretch.
Key moment | The back-and-forth nature of the game more or less ended early in the fourth quarter when sophomore safety Pernell Williams intercepted Gardner-Webb quarterback Lucas Beatty and gave the Chants possession at the GWU 33. Coastal would score again five plays later to go up 48-33.
The man | Coastal senior Marcus Whitener. The oft-injured running back rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns in just six carries – all in the fourth quarter – to help close out the win.
By Ryan Young, firstname.lastname@example.org