Senior and Myrtle Beach High alumnus Tyler Keane started for Coastal Carolina on Saturday night and led the program to its first victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in eight tries with its 38-28 win over Massachusetts.
But interim head coach Jamey Chadwell made it clear following the game that the quarterback position is still an open competition.
“I’ve said from the get go, we’re going to do what we have to do to win this first game, then we have an open date,” Chadwell said. “Until we get to our conference, we’re still going to work with an open competition and try to find who or whom gives us the best chance to win the football game. We’re going to go with that until somebody solidifies that job where we feel like they can go out and execute at a high level.”
Keane led an offense that didn’t commit a turnover, but also threw for only 78 yards and a touchdown while completing 9 of 17 passes. Coastal has thrown for less than 100 yards in four straight games going back to the final three games of the 2016 season.
Keane is now 7-1 as a starter over the past two seasons. He was pressed into duty last year because of several injuries at the position. Graduate student Dalton Demos, who began his career at CCU, then transferred to a junior college then Northern Iowa before returning to Conway this season, spelled Keane for a change of pace and was generally used as a runner.
Demos gained 28 yards on seven carries and completed his only pass attempt for 2 yards.
“I though the [quarterbacks] handled it well,” Chadwell said. “I thought Dalton gave us some good juice early. There in the second half in the drive he went in and didn’t execute the way we needed to there and put us behind the sticks.
“I thought Tyler handled it pretty good for the most part. We tried to do some things he was comfortable with and take advantage of some things. We’ve got to do better there. As we play better and better teams they’re going to figure it out. Obviously we could surprise [Umass] in this first game, they had no clue what was going on and it worked. We’ve got to get better there and they will.”
We’ve got to do better there. As we play better and better teams they’re going to figure it out. Obviously we could surprise [Umass] in this first game, they had no clue what was going on and it worked. We’ve got to get better there and they will.
CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell on the team’s quarterback position
Chadwell said he plans to continue using a two-quarterback rotation for the foreseeable future. Chadwell listed six players as possible starters prior to Saturday, including sophomores Austin Bradley and Chance Thrasher, junior Josh Stilley and grad student Austin Wilson.
“The other guys just didn’t earn the time enough right now to where I was comfortable putting them in there with the situation, with the game being that way,” Chadwell said. “But we’ve got more practice coming and the more and more they get comfortable, the more and more you’ll have a chance to see maybe one or two more. But we have to be better overall there.”
Coastal Carolina no longer has an All-American at running back with the departure to the NFL of De’Angelo Henderson, but the Chants showed Saturday they have depth at the position.
Osharmar Abercrombie, who had an impressive 5.68 yards-per-carry average in three years as Henderson’s backup, played like the No. 1 back, getting team-highs with 17 carries for 149 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
“It was important for me to come out with my team and make sure we got a win. It didn’t matter to me if I had a good or bad game, as long as we won the game,” Abercrombie said.
Boston College transfer and junior Marcus Outlow and redshirt freshman Alex James of Florence displayed speed and big-play ability when given their opportunities.
Outlow gained 55 yards on eight carries with a long of 26, while James gained 49 yards on five carries and had a long of 25 yards.
“James is still young. He’s still going to have some inexperience and make some mistakes,” Chadwell said. “But he’s hungry. I think you’ll see him play a big role throughout the season. … He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. He’s a pretty multiple running back. We like the mentality he has. He’s a good mix to Osh and some of the other guys we have, he’s a little different than those guys and we’ll be able to utilize the talents he has.”
UMass tight end Adam Breneman displayed Saturday why he’s on the 2017 preseason watch lists for the John Mackey, Wuerffel and Biletnikoff awards.
Breneman had nine receptions for 126 yards a week after catching nine for 179 yards against Hawaii.
Breneman, a 6-5, 255-pound grad student, seems on his way to surpassing last year’s stellar season, when he was among the nation’s most productive tight ends with 70 receptions, 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Lamenting week off
Most people would welcome a week off.
But it’s a little too early for the Coastal football team.
The Chants’ first of two bye weeks comes this upcoming week, so the Chants won’t play again until they visit Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 16.
“Most coaches believe your biggest improvement is from Week 1 to Week 2, just because you’ve got that first game out and you get a chance to work on some things … because you get in a rhythm, you’re playing another game,” Chadwell said. “You’d like to have it maybe in the middle so you can rest after four or five games. But it is what it is.”
“We’ll go out and work on getting better,” Chadwell said. “It gives us a chance to get a jump-start on UAB. We can prepare for that, and it also gives us a chance to do a lot of corrections from this game and things we need to improve on, so we’ll use it as a benefit.”
The second bye week comes before the final game.
Coastal Carolina was picked to finish last in the Sun Belt Conference by the leagues coaches, but publications were more kind with their Chanticleer projections.
USA Today picked Coastal to finish 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the league to tie for sixth, while Athlon Sports predicted 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the league.
Chadwell was asked if he thought the other teams in the Sun Belt Conference would take notice of the Chants’ victory over UMass, which fell to 0-2 and was coming off a 2-10 season in 2016.
“Well I don’t think [many of them] think UMass is very good, so they probably expected it maybe,” Chadwell said. “But I hope what it does for our guys is that [they realize] we’re capable of playing at a high level. And we didn’t play our best overall in a lot of phases but we were able to find a way to get it done.”
“We still realize we’ve got a long way to go because the teams we play are going to continue getting better and better.”