CONWAY — As far as Coastal Carolina’s quarterback situation goes, senior Aramis Hillary is expected to return to practice this week and reclaim his starting role. But at least the Chanticleers know now that they have a more-than-capable backup.
And, for that matter, a promising successor to the job for next season.
If redshirt-freshman Alex Ross hadn’t already locked up the starting job for 2013 before Saturday, well, he showed the CCU coaches all they needed to see.
“If he’s not the guy, then we probably got somebody that transferred from a major college [program] that was their starter because, you know, you’re not going to play a whole lot better than that,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said of Ross’ performance in Coastal’s 55-33 win at Gardner-Webb on Saturday. “You never know what happens, but I’d say our future looks pretty good with him.”
Making his first collegiate start, Ross completed 16 of 30 passes for 342 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while also rushing 13 times for 62 yards. His 404 total yards is the second-best single-game performance in program history and his passing total ranks as the fifth-highest single-game effort.
Ross was playing in place of Hillary, who missed practice all week while recovering from a mild neck injury. He should be back on the field Sunday when the Chants (5-4, 3-1 Big South) reconvene.
“We’ll get Aramis back this week and kind of see how that all goes, see how he feels through next week,” Patenaude said. “I would expect him to start, but it’s great to have the opportunity to put Alex out there and watch him do that. And really he has so much room for growth and maturity and strength and knowledge.”
Coastal’s 596 yards of total offense Saturday was the second-highest total in program history. Not bad for playing with a quarterback who had thrown only 17 collegiate passes entering the game.
The Chants also have a promising true freshman quarterback in Dalton Demos, who is likely redshirting this season. But it sounds like the job next year is Ross’ to lose.
“When we had the second-most yards in school history, you can only be excited about that,” Patenaude said. “And you’ve got to just put it in perspective. I think what they were trying to do defensively really played to his strengths. They played a lot of man, he made a lot of great throws versus the man. But yeah, obviously it’s a look into the future.”
It was a strange afternoon for the kickers Saturday.
Coastal sophomore Alex Catron missed the extra point attempts on the Chants’ first two touchdowns after making his first 26 PATs this season. Gardner-Webb kicker Trever Austin had one extra point blocked by senior Johnny Hartsfield and missed another. And junior Grant Clayton missed on a 39-yard field goal for Coastal after giving Catron a break.
“The first two misses, they were all my fault,” Catron said. “The snap was there, the hold was there. In the words of coach Patenaude, he said sometimes I tend to ‘swing the gate’ and leave my hips outside of the line. Every time I looked up at my finish, I was way off to the left, which is right where the ball goes. …
“I had to have faith that the coaches were going to bring it back out to me, and after halftime, coach [Mike] Gallagher pulled me over to the side and he was like, ‘Look, I know you’re 1,000 times better than that. Just keep your head on straight, just do what you do, go out there and don’t think about it.’ ”
Catron, who is 7-of-9 on field goals this year, was briefly replaced by Clayton, who converted one extra point before missing that field goal try late in the second quarter.
“Grant was the starter last year and Grant’s been doing a solid job in practice – not well enough to beat out Alex, but enough where if something happened to Alex we wouldn’t be afraid to give him some playing time,” CCU coach Joe Moglia said. “I thought we needed to make a change there and we did, but I wanted Alex to have a shot coming back.”
Catron was perfect on four PATs after halftime and feels he’s gotten everything fixed.
“I got a little mad, got a little down,” he admitted. “It’s nice because I came over to the sideline and everyone’s like, ‘Come on, Alex, I know you’re better than that. We’ve got your back. You’ve just got to put it through the H.’ ”
Senior Marcus Whitener was supposed to be Coastal’s No. 2 running back this season, but after going down with a knee injury early in the season opener he had not been a factor all fall – until the fourth quarter Saturday.
Whitener finished with a team-high 79 rushing yards and two touchdowns in just six carries against Gardner-Webb while doing all his damage in the fourth quarter. That included a 39-yard touchdown run for the Chants’ final score.
“It’s really frustrating for Marcus and a lot of the seniors like [receiver] Akeem Wesley and Marcus and [receiver] Chris Presley,” Patenaude said. “They had injuries and then we have such good depth they never were able to get traction again and get going again because the guys in front of them had played well and they stayed healthy. We’re very confident in Marcus being able to run and pass protect, and to his credit, he hasn’t let his frustration build to the point where it became a negative or anything other than going out, doing the work and waiting for the opportunity to come.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.