CLINTON — As the Coastal Carolina football team traveled back to Conway after its 65-7 win at Presbyterian on Saturday, the Chanticleers’ thoughts and attention had turned to a game happening two states away in Lynchburg, Va.
Head coach Joe Moglia said they were tracking Liberty’s clash with No. 6-ranked Stony Brook as best they could on the bus via the iPhone of an offensive intern, though it was hard to keep the signal and what they did see was on a delay. Meanwhile, updates from friends and supporters were streaming in to Moglia’s own phone as the Chants’ playoff hopes rested on the Flames’ ability to upset the 9-1 Seawolves.
Moglia had said rather frankly earlier in the week that he didn’t think that was going to happen as he considered Stony Brook a legitimate FCS championship contender and Coastal had just dismantled Liberty two weeks earlier in a 36-12 win. But he reiterated that anything could happen.
And indeed it did as the Flames forced five turnovers, built a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter Saturday and held on for a 28-14 victory to take Coastal’s playoff hopes from longshot to likely.
The upset in Lynchburg sets the stage for a complicated three-way tie atop the Big South Conference standings if the Chants can defeat Charleston Southern next week and Liberty wins its finale at VMI. That would leave Coastal, Liberty and Stony Brook all with one conference loss each and all with a 1-1 record against each other, meaning the tiebreaker for the Big South’s automatic FCS playoff berth would be decided by the best road record in league play -- which just happens to belong to the Chants now.
So somewhere between Clinton and Conway on Saturday night, Moglia had a talk with his team.
“I [had] not talked to them about going to the playoffs,” Moglia said over the phone while still on the trip back. “I had not talked to them about how the tiebreaker goes, and tonight when Liberty won the game, I got in the middle of the bus and talked about it -- here’s what we need to do. ... If we don’t take care of business, it’s over. It’s Liberty doesn’t take care of business, it’s over.”
But all of a sudden the odds are in Coastal’s corner.
The Chants (6-4, 4-1 Big South) will take a four-game winning streak into their game with Charleston Southern (5-5, 3-2) next Saturday at Brooks Stadium, while Liberty (5-5, 4-1) will play a struggling VMI team (2-8, 1-4) that has lost five straight. Stony Brook (9-2, 5-1) has completed its regular-season slate.
Moglia cautioned that nothing has been secured yet as a playoff berth is still not solely in their control. If Liberty loses and it’s only a two-way tie atop the standings, Stony Brook wins the tiebreaker with its head-to-head victory over Coastal last month. And Moglia has stated he doesn’t expect the Chants to receive an at-large playoff berth.
“They don’t know they’re going to the playoffs,” he said of his players. “They’re going to know that we’ve got to take care of business and Liberty has to take care of business. Alabama lost to Texas A&M, right? So you think of the incredible come-from-behind game they had at LSU, and then they play A&M and they lose. So you worry a little bit about Liberty having a great, great upset against Stony Brook and then they take it for granted the following week. I hope that’s not the case. ... We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope they do well, and we’ve got to do what we need to do.”
If everything does break for the Chants, it would be the program’s third FCS playoff appearance in 10 seasons. And it would feel very similar to the team’s surprising late-season push in 2010 when Coastal won its final four games and benefitted from a Liberty win over Stony Brook on the final week to force a three-way tie between those teams. The Chants held the tiebreaker then too, which was at the time fewest points allowed in conference play, and suddenly found themselves in the postseason.
Moglia wasn’t here for that. This is his first season, and regardless of what plays out this coming week, well, it would have to be considered a successful debut at this point.
“I think we’re getting to [a] point that has happened more quickly than I would have thought,” he said Saturday night. “I think we’ve shown a lot of growth over the course of the season, so I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of the coaches.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.