As Coastal Carolina’s losses mount, so too do the ways in which the Chanticleers lose games.
Against Troy on Saturday, an NCAA record-tying performance played a key role in Coastal Carolina’s 42-17 loss at Brooks Stadium.
Troy freshman Marcus Jones returned Coastal’s first two kickoffs of the game for touchdowns, allowing the Trojans to take an early lead that they never relinquished and send Coastal (1-9) to its ninth consecutive defeat.
“You dig a hole, 14 points, you take that away it’s 28-17 and the game flows a little differently,” Coastal interim head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “And they muffed two punts and we had a chance to get them and don’t get them.
“Any game that we’ve had this year we have struggled with some type of special teams. … We’re just not able to make winning plays on special teams when we need to.”
The Chants remain winless in the Sun Belt Conference at 0-6 in their first season in the league, while Troy (8-2) improved to 5-1 in conference play and is tied for first place.
Jones tied an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision single-game record with his two kickoff returns for touchdowns, which covered a combined 178 yards.
“They’re good and they don’t need help, but we gave it to them,” Chadwell said.
The Chants allowed the game’s opening kickoff to be returned for a touchdown for the second time this season, as Jones raced 91 yards to give the Trojans a quick 7-0 lead.
After an Evan Rabon 39-yard field goal that was set up by a Preston Carey interception got Coastal on the board, Jones took the next kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown to give Troy a 14-3 lead. Coastal has allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns on the season.
Jones’ two returns tie an NCAA record that has been accomplished now 21 times, the last time in 2014. He did not have a return for a score this season, and was averaging 24.3 yards on 17 returns with a long of 35 yards.
It’s always difficult always losing, but I feel as a team we’ve been sticking together and staying positive. Nobody has really been negative. We’ve been staying together, working hard each week to try to fix the minor mistakes. We have to stop making them. Once we stop making them, we’re going to be a great team.
CCU senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie
CCU junior Kilton Anderson completed 13 of 25 passes for 157 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first start for the Chants in place of senior Tyler Keane, who has a thumb injury, and senior Osharmar Abercrombie led the Chants in rushing with 55 yards on 14 carries.
“I think we had a great plan going into the game, and I think just some missed blocks, dropped balls and missed reads really hurt us,” Anderson said. “I think we could have really been in that game but obviously they made some big plays that really hurt us.”
Troy, which is among the national leaders in several defensive categories, held CCU to 258 yards of offense, including 94 yards rushing on 37 carries, and had 13 tackles for loss including five sacks.
Following Jones’ second touchdown, Malcolm Williams’ 31-yard TD reception from Anderson pulled the Chants within four at 14-10, and perhaps the loudest cheer of the day from the home crowd came when Jones was tackled at the 25 on the ensuing kickoff, which was kicked low and short.
The Trojans converted long fourth down attempts during each of their second quarter touchdown drives that gave them a 28-10 halftime lead.
Senior quarterback Brandon Silvers, who completed 18 of 30 passes for 206 yards, hit Tevaris McCormick for a 9-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-7, leading to a 10-yard scoring run by Silvers.
Silvers completed a 12-yard pass to Damion Willis on a fourth-and-9 at the CCU 35 on the Trojans’ next possession, leading to an 8-yard touchdown run by Jordan Chunn.
In addition to its two long fourth-down conversions, Troy converted third downs in the first half with 10 and 8 yards to go, and Silvers converted a third-and-9 at the Coastal 25 in the third quarter with a 14-yard run that led to a score.
“I thought the fourth downs were big,” Chadwell said. “We had them in two fourth-and-7-pluses that they end up scoring touchdowns on and we couldn’t get them off the field.”
Coastal kept drives alive by converting three of four fourth-down attempts, but the Chants were only three of 14 on third down conversions.
“We just have to continue drives,” said Anderson, who played in eight games as a redshirt freshman at Fresno State in 2015 and is in his first season at CCU. “We just can’t continue to get into third and longs and not convert. We have to figure that out.”
Coastal scored on the opening possession of the second half to pull within 11 points. The drive covered 82 yards in nine plays, included a 21-yard Abercrombie run on a third-and-19 at the Coastal 35, and culminated with a Chris Jones 44-yard TD catch.
Jones was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spiking the ball in the end zone, and the penalty yardage on the kickoff allowed Troy to begin its next drive at its 45.
Though the Chants surrendered just one first down on the drive, they were pinned at their 6 following a punt. An illegal block negated a 16-yard gain for a first down at the CCU 24 and brought the ball back to the 4, and an 11-yard Abercrombie run came up a yard shy of the first down.
The Chants punted and Troy drove 52 yards in eight plays to score on an 11-yard Josh Anderson run and reestablish an 18-point lead.
“We spike it, we act like we’re in the NFL, and we get 15 yards so they get great field position,” Chadwell said. “We stopped them but we’re backed up and I thought that was the key to the whole drive.
“… You never know what plays in the games make a difference. In my mind that was a big series there where we backed up. I thought that was a big time in the game.”
The Chants held an advantage in total yards of offense, 267-253, at the end of three quarters, though they were unable to move the ball in the fourth quarter and Troy finished with a 381-258 advantage.
A 19-yard Deondre Douglas TD reception with 6:44 remaining closed out the scoring.
“It’s tough to go through a season like this,” Anderson said. “I just feel for the seniors. That scoreboard hasn’t reflected the way this team has played all season and that’s the most frustrating part because everyone is working hard and everyone is at practice giving it their all. It’s just tough watching these guys give it their all and just not coming out on top.
“There are plays that can be made and just one missed assignment causes things to fall apart. We’ve just have to figure those little details out and … we could be a very good team.”