The rivalry clash with Liberty is annually the spotlight game on Coastal Carolina’s football schedule, but this season, that glow will shine well beyond the fan bases of the Chanticleers and Flames.
The teams’ matchup in the 2015 regular-season finale in Lynchburg, Va., has been moved from Saturday to Thursday, Nov. 19, and will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on ESPNEWS.
It marks the first Big South football game to air on one of ESPN’s linear networks and the first conference game to be played on a Thursday night.
“I think it will be exciting,” Chants coach Joe Moglia said. “We’ll be the only [FCS] college game in the country that will be televised on a national basis that night. It’s a great rivalry between us and Liberty and it will be a great game.”
It’s a great thing for the school, but it doesn’t [change] anything. We want to take care of business.
Junior wide receiver Bruce Mapp
Moglia said he was involved in the discussion on Coastal Carolina’s end along with university president David DeCenzo and athletic director Matt Hogue.
And he is not concerned that a shorter week of preparation might have any negative effect on his team.
“Both of us have the same challenge,” he said. “It’s a little bit more of a challenge because we have to travel there, but by then it’s also going to be the last regular-season game. It will be our 11th game, so we should have a pretty good idea of what we’re doing between now and then so I’d like to think missing a day or two or practice won’t be the end of the world. And by then, I would expect us to be pretty ready to go.”
Junior wide receiver Bruce Mapp also dismissed any such concerns.
“No sir. Coach Moglia is the best at adapting and adjusting. I think we’ll handle that well,” he said.
The rivals have produced especially dramatic games in recent years.
The last time the matchup was held in Lynchburg, in 2013, Coastal Carolina rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit to win 55-52 in double overtime.
And, of course, last season in Conway, Liberty denied Coastal Carolina on a 24-yard potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds to hold on for a 15-14 win, snapping the Chants’ bid for a perfect regular season.
With the two teams again picked as the top contenders in the Big South this fall, odds are this latest installment of the rivalry should make for good TV.
“It’s awesome. A lot of people back home will be able to watch it,” senior safety Richie Sampson said. “For us it’s just another game on the field – a couple more TV timeouts – but it’s great. It’s good exposure for us and hopefully we can start getting more games like that.”
Said Mapp: “It’s a great thing for the school, but it doesn’t [change] anything. We want to take care of business.”
Sampson easing back
After sitting out the first part preseason camp, Sampson has started easing back into practice this week, taking the next steps in his recovery from a torn labrum in his shoulder that ended his 2014 season.
The senior safety said after a couple days of being limited to a helmet and jersey he expects to progress to wearing shoulder pads and then full pads, but he isn’t expected to take part in any live hitting the rest of the preseason.
Still, he’s encouraged by his progress.
“I think those couple of weeks [off], really my body has not gotten where I want it to be yet but [it’s] definitely taken a couple steps forward, and I feel like I’ve even gotten stronger and gained some weight in that time,” Sampson said Wednesday.
Moglia cautioned that it’s too soon to make any determinations on Sampson’s availability.
“Not yet. We need to see him being able to move around and see how he does over the span of the next couple weeks,” Moglia said. “It’s still not 100 percent, so we certainly want to be very careful that we don’t risk him along those lines.”
Asked if he thinks Sampson could be ready by the team’s Sept. 5 season opener, Moglia indicated that’s likely a longshot.
“I have some hope, but I think it’s unlikely,” he said.
If healthy, Sampson would project as one of the Chants’ top defensive players, but after two significant injuries to that same shoulder, he’s not rushing the process.
“I really don’t know. I’m just kind of going with the flow and doing what the coaches tell me, what the training staff tells me,” he said. “I’m just excited to be back in a jersey and helmet. It’s been a while.”
Former Chants catch up
With the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers holding a couple joint practices this week in Spartanburg, a couple former Chanticleer teammates have had the chance to share the field together again.
Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel were captured smiling side by side in a photo that made the rounds on social media Wednesday.
While Norman has established himself as an NFL regular after three years in the league, Hazel is still trying to earn his place on the Dolphins roster in his second year with the organization.
The Panthers, who also feature another former Chant standout in fullback Mike Tolbert, host the Dolphins in a preseason game Saturday night in Charlotte.
Another former Chant, tight end Jamie Childers, reportedly reached an injury settlement with the Panthers earlier this week.