The Football Bowl Subdivision era at Coastal Carolina begins Saturday night against Massachusetts at Brooks Stadium.
The Chanticleers are moving up after 14 years of football at the Football Championship Subdivision, in which they went 44-6 over their final 50 regular season games.
Their next win against an FBS opponent will be their first.
Coastal is 0-7 all-time against FBS opponents, and was picked to finish last in the 12-team Sun Belt Conference.
“I feel like everyone will automatically pin us as an underdog because we have had success at the FCS level, but we have not played at the FBS level,” senior defensive tackle Dwayne Price said. “We have not played the consistent hard running teams, hard passing teams, big offensive linemen, bigger quarterbacks, bigger everywhere throughout the field.”
The Chants haven’t played against an FBS opponent since losing 70-10 to South Carolina in 2013, and the closest they have come to defeating an FBS program was a 38-28 loss to Toledo in 2012. The Chants have never hosted an FBS opponent.
“We do know it’s a huge step up, especially watching UMass play last Saturday night and the type of game they played, it is a completely different level and it’s going to take us playing a really good game of football for all 60 minutes to have a chance to come out and win,” said CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell.
The Chants are playing for the first time in six years without head coach Joe Moglia, who is taking a five-month medical sabbatical to treat inflammation in his lungs.
Massachusetts, which is coming off a 2-10 season in 2016 as an independent, had Hawaii on the ropes last week with a two-touchdown lead in the second half but lost 38-35 on a touchdown with 48 seconds remaining.
“I think they’re a pretty good team,” Chadwell said. “Last week they had numerous opportunities to win it and for whatever reason it didn’t go their way towards the end. After watching the video I’m sure they’re kicking themselves that they didn’t get that win.”
Coastal is 9-5 all-time in season openers and 11-3 in home openers, though this is the first opening game against an FBS opponent.
Brooks Stadium has been expanded approximately 63 percent this season to 15,500 seats to meet the requirements of CCU’s move to FBS, though some areas around the stadium will be fenced or roped off because construction isn’t complete.
“It is the first opportunity for the community to see what your team’s about and you want to make sure you represent yourself well,” Chadwell said. “It would be really nice to get that first win out of the way right off the bat so that’s not a monkey on your back a little bit too. So there will be a little nervousness and a lot of excitement.”
Chadwell has yet to name a starting quarterback for the game, and there are six players listed as potential starters on the team’s depth chart this week, including Myrtle Beach High product Tyler Keane, who went 6-1 as a starter last year, and Josh Stilley, who won the 2016 starting job but missed the final nine games of the season with a knee injury.
“You’ll probably see multiple guys play, probably early,” Chadwell said. “… If somebody’s got a hot hand you’ll see them going on, if not then we’ll try to put in there whoever gives us the best chance to move the ball.”
The Chants will be playing their first football game since last November.
“We’re just amped to finally play someone else and actually hit someone who isn’t our teammates,” Price said. “That first hit is just always the best. It’s unexplainable.”
CCU vs. FBS Opponents
No. 22 Penn State
No. 25 West Virginia
No. 11 South Carolina