CONWAY — Sophomore linebacker Quinn Backus had one more opportunity Saturday to make his case for Big South Defensive Player of the Year honors, and indeed he did.
The breakout star of Coastal Carolina’s defense this season, Backus tallied a career-high 16 total tackles to go with two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception in the Chanticleers’ 41-20 win over Charleston Southern in the regular-season finale at Brooks Stadium.
It was just the latest standout performance for the first-year starter from Greenwood who has already been named the conference’s defensive player of the week four times this fall.
“He’s had a lot of pretty good performances, and I don’t know if tonight was his best game but he plays consistent and plays well all the time. He really does,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said.
Thanks to that consistency, Backus moved to the top of the Coastal records list Saturday while breaking the program’s all-time mark for most tackles in a single season. Backus is up to 123 now, surpassing the previous standard of 116 set by Jamar Leath over 12 games back in 2006.
“It’s a great accomplishment [being listed among the] greats of Coastal Carolina,” Backus said afterward in his typical humble, soft-spoken manner. “But I just have to keep working, don’t get complacent and stay focused.”
His big game also moved him into the tackles lead among all Big South players as he jumped ahead of Gardner-Webb junior Tanner Burch. For the season, he’s up to eight tackles for loss, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
“We don’t get a chance to watch the defense too much, but every time I look up Quinn’s making a tackle or Quinn’s in on the assist,” senior quarterback Aramis Hillary said. “I’ve always knew he was a great player. He came from a great high school program up there in Greenwood, so we knew we were getting a treat when we brought Quinn in. And these last couple games or this whole season, Quinn’s been making a lot of noise.”
Sophomore left tackle Chad Hamilton did not play in the second half due to a recurring issue in his knee that flared up earlier in the game. He was replaced by junior Will Middleton, and his status for next week is uncertain.
“It’s some sort of a pinch as far as his knee goes,” Moglia said. “I think right now it’s a question mark. He’s not automatically out. He was moving around pretty well, but we don’t know and we’re probably not going to know till Monday.”
The Chants already lost their starting left guard for the season when junior Jamey Cheatwood tore an ACL in the team’s win at VMI last month.
Senior tight end David Duran, meanwhile, left the game in the second half after landing awkwardly on his shoulder. Duran missed most of last season with a torn rotator cuff that required surgery, but speaking right after the game, Moglia wasn’t certain it was the same shoulder or not.
“He took a good shot and he landed on it, so none of that’s probably good,” Moglia said. “But we don’t know yet on that either.”
Two for two
For the second time this season, Coastal intercepted a two-point conversion pass and returned it all the way to the other end zone.
On Saturday, it was senior cornerback Dontavais Johnson, who picked off junior Malcolm Dixon midway through the third quarter and added two points to Coastal’s already-healthy lead.
“I just heard coaches from the sideline saying, ‘Watch the tight end.’ The tight end wasn’t my man, my man was the receiver, so I just made a play, just let him go and played the ball,” Johnson said of his read on that play.
“Good thing they didn’t throw to your guy,” Moglia chimed in from the back of the room, joking with Johnson.
Junior linebacker Mike McClure did the same thing in the second game of the season, a 47-45 triple-overtime win at Furman.
“You guys should look this up,” Moglia said in his postgame news conference. “For a team at any level to have two two-point conversions returned for four points, I think that’s worth checking out. I don’t know if there’s a team in the history of the United States that’s ever done that.”
The team will gather on the third floor of Adkins Field House for the FCS playoffs selection show Sunday at 1:30. The 20-team bracket will be unveiled live on ESPNU.
CCU athletic director Hunter Yurachek said earlier in the week that Coastal had made a competitive bid to host any potential first-round game.
The top 12 seeds in the tournament receive first-round byes, while the other eight teams play first-round games next week.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.