Coastal Carolina made school history Saturday night by playing in its first game as a Football Bowl Subdivision member.
That was cause for celebration in itself. The program’s first win over an FBS opponent made it a truly special occasion for the Chanticleers.
The Chants broke a tie early in the third quarter and scored 17 consecutive points to defeat Massachusetts 38-28 Saturday night at Brooks Stadium. The momentous win caused several team members to share tears of joy in the locker room following the game.
“The atmosphere in the locker room after the game was something special and something I’ll never forget,” said quarterback Tyler Keane.
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Coastal Carolina’s young offensive line featuring four new starters this season led the Chanticleers to 321 yards rushing and helped senior Osharmar Abercrombie record the second 100-yard game of his career with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
Coastal had been 0-7 against FBS opponents in its first 14 years as a Football Championship Subdivision program through 2016, being outscored 331-51. The closest the Chants came to defeating an FBS school before joining the elite level of college football this season was a 38-28 loss to Toledo in 2012.
Coastal’s last game against an FBS opponent was a 70-10 loss to South Carolina in 2013.
“We put a lot of work into this and truthfully we really didn’t know how it was going to turn out,” CCU interim head football coach and offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell said. “We didn’t know if we were ready to make this jump. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and their effort.”
Chadwell is filling in as head coach this season for Joe Moglia, who has coached the team for the past five years but is on a five-month medical sabbatical as he treats inflammation in his lungs.
“I’m happy for Coastal Carolina University, I’m happy for our football team, and specifically coach Moglia and the program that he’s built and the foundation,” Chadwell said. “It was great for us to get that first FBS win because … this university gave us the resources to help us reach this level and I’m thankful we can get that out of the way in the first game.”
Chadwell failed to announce a starting quarterback prior to game time, but he settled on Keane, a senior and Myrtle Beach High alumnus who started and played most of the game, being spelled occasionally by grad student Dalton Demos.
Keane, who was deep on the depth chart last year but went 6-1 as a starter after several injuries hit the position, wasn’t asked to do much with the dominance of the running game.
He completed 9 of 17 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, and Demos was primarily used in the run game, gaining 28 yards on seven carries and scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
“I think we threw the ball 18 times, we’d like to throw it obviously more than that,” Chadwell said. “We had some really easy passes that we didn’t complete and was really trying to make sure we didn’t make a mistake that didn’t turn the game. … You’ll see us open it up more going forward.”
Demos scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run after UMass fumbled at its 17 on a lateral that was dropped.
UMass quickly answered by driving 72 yards in four plays to tie the score on a 4-yard run by Marquis Young. Star Minuteman tight end Adam Breneman was featured in the drive, catching a 37-yard pass down the right sideline and leaping for a 15-yard pass at the 4 to set up the TD. Breneman finished with nine receptions for 126 yards.
Demos’ second rushing TD of the game on a 22-yard option keeper gave Coastal a 14-7 lead and a 21-yard reception by Andy Isabella tied the score at 14.
An Abercrombie 4-yard touchdown run gave Coastal a 21-14 lead at halftime and followed a 17-yard Abercrombie run that featured spun and ran through tackles.
UMass marched down the field after accepting the second-half kickoff to tie the game on quarterback Andrew Ford’s 9-yard run.
But Coastal took over the game from there.
I was very impressed with how far we came as a young defense. The young players really stepped up tonight and have earned ever more respect than they already had. They came and attacked and literally made a difference in that game. They set a tone that no matter who was in we’re going to give it our all.
CCU senior defensive tackle Dwayne Price
An Evan Rabon 46-yard field goal gave Coastal a three-point lead 5 minutes into the third quarter, and a 13-yard touchdown reception by Chris Jones from Keane put the Chants up by 10.
Coastal maintained its 10-point lead when UMass missed a 34-yard field goal attempt with 14 minutes remaining, and an Abercrombie 7-yard TD run with 3:45 remaining sealed the victory.
The Chants gained 326 yards on 45 carries for an average rush of 7.24 yards behind an offensive line that featured true freshman center Brock Hoffman and redshirt freshman guard Trey Carter among four new starters.
“We had a great offensive line,” Abercrombie said. “We had a couple guys rotating in, and with all those guys, the tight ends and wide receivers, everybody did their part today and made sure they blocked.”
UMass scored with 1:10 remaining to pull within 10, but CCU recovered an onside kick to run the clock out.
UMass threw for 287 yards but was limited to 70 rushing yards, and it lost the turnover battle 2-0, leading to seven CCU points.
“I think the key to the game was they had two or three turnovers and the missed field goal was huge there in the fourth, and we didn’t turn the ball over,” Chadwell said.
Brooks Stadium was expanded in the offseason, and the announced attendance of 13,274 is a new Coastal record.