Coastal Carolina University’s quest for a road victory at the Football Bowl Subdivision Level continues.
Coastal fell behind early and a comeback fell short Saturday afternoon in a 30-23 loss to Alabama-Birmingham at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
Three interceptions and a pair of missed field goals hampered Coastal’s comeback attempt, and the Chants failed to pass for more than 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game dating back to last season.
Coastal defeated Massachusetts for its first win against an FBS opponent in its debut as an FBS member two weeks ago at Brooks Stadium and fell to 1-1. UAB improved to 2-1 in its first season in three years. The Blazers program was killed in 2014 but was reinstated beginning this season.
The loss ends an eight-game CCU winning streak dating back to last Oct. 1. Coastal is now 0-8 on the road against FBS opponents, with the first seven losses coming as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“Now we know how it feels to lose. Hopefully we won’t take any more [losses],” senior defensive end Marcus Williamson told WRNN-FM following the game. “Next game we’ll go out and continue to fight and hopefully get a [win].”
The Chanticleers out-gained the Blazers 327 yards to 274, allowing just 116 yards of total offense in the second half, and held a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.
“They came out very high-tempo and we were ready for it but I guess we just needed to settle down,” Williamson said. “Once we settled down things came kind of easy for us.”
UAB drove 79 yards on its opening possession with little resistance, as quarterback A.J. Erdely began the nine-play drive with three consecutive completions and ended it with a 7-yard touchdown run.
CCU eschewed what would have been a 48-yard field goal attempt on its first possession, instead attempting a pass on a fourth-and-8 at the UAB 30 that fell incomplete.
The Blazers took a 13-0 lead after linebacker Fitzgerald Mofor intercepted a Tyler Keane pass at the CCU 21 that was deflected over the middle, and Spencer Brown broke tackles up the middle for an 11-yard scoring run.
Williamson blocked the extra point attempt for the fifth blocked kick of his career, and Preston Carey returned it more than 80 yards to the end zone for two points to get the Chants on the board.
The Chants lost senior linebacker Shane Johnson on the touchdown to an ankle injury, as he was hit low by safety Fitz Wattley as both were attempting to make the tackle near the goal line.
Johnson had the ankle taped but did not return, and Coastal was limited in what it could do defensively thereafter.
“We fought to the end,” said Williamson of Lake City, who tied for a team-high with eight tackles and had a sack and blocked kick. “We fought through adversity and came together as a team and family. If we continue to do that and fight to the end we’ll be able to win many ballgames on that [defensive] side.”
We fought to the end. We fought through adversity and came together as a team and family. If we continue to do that and fight to the end we’ll be able to win many ballgames on that [defensive] side.
CCU senior defensive end Marcus Williamson
An Evan Rabon 39-yard field goal cut the deficit to 13-5, and Chandler Kryst forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the UAB 16, but the Chants were unable to earn a first down and Rabon missed a 29-yard attempt.
A Nick Vogel 21-yard field goal late in the second quarter gave UAB a 16-5 halftime lead.
Keane completed passes on the first two plays of the second half but was intercepted by Tevin Crews on the third play, as the linebacker was sitting on a short route. Carlos Stephens took a draw 26 yards for a touchdown two plays later to extend UAB’s advantage to 23-5.
Dalton Demos replaced Keane and sparked a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive with his running and use of the option, and despite just one pass on the drive, the Chants got creative with play calls that included a reverse.
Osharmar Abercrombie scored on a 1-yard run and Chris Jones converted a two-point conversion on an end-around to cut the deficit to 23-13.
On UAB’s next possession, linebacker Silas Kelly and lineman Tarron Jackson combined for CCU’s first sack of the game to contribute to a UAB punt after three plays, and the Chants drove to the Blazers 23 before Rabon missed his second field goal wide left, this one from 40 yards.
Coastal started three drives inside the UAB 36-yard line but managed just three points on them.
A 25-yard run on a third-and-8 option pitch by redshirt freshman Jacqez Hairston on his first carry of the season set up a 33-yard field goal by Rabon that cut the deficit to seven points with 8:54 remaining in the game, though Hairston might have scored a touchdown had he not tripped untouched at the UAB 18.
CCU was forced to punt on its next possession with 6 minutes to play, and UAB scored with 2:54 remaining.
A pass interference call on Dontay Hears with less than 4 minutes remaining and a personal foul for a late hit out of bounds on the next play moved UAB to the CCU 7, and Brown scored on a 3-yard run.
Keane was 6 of 14 for 64 yards with three interceptions when he was pulled in favor of Demos following his third pick early in the third quarter, but he reentered for a CCU drive in the final three minutes, which culminated in a 1-yard TD run by Abercrombie.
Coastal’s Kerron Johnson came out of a scrum with the football after on onside kick with 1:18 remaining but UAB was awarded possession. It appeared on television replays that a Chant touched the ball before it traveled a required 10 yards, which would have resulted in another kick following a penalty had the Chants recovered the ball.
Keane finished 7 of 15 for 75 yards and Demos was 2 of 7 for 25 yards.
Abercrombie was the Chants’ leading rusher for the second straight game, gaining 75 yards and scoring two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Coastal returns to Brooks Stadium at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday against Western Illinois, which is the Chants’ lone Football Championship Subdivision opponent this season, before again seeking its first road FBS win in its Sun Belt Conference opener at Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 30.