Coastal Carolina traveled the farthest it has ever traveled for a football game, and made it worth the trip.
The Chanticleers ended a program-record nine-game losing streak Saturday in the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho, with a 13-7 win over Idaho.
The Chanticleers (2-9, 1-6) had lost nine straight games dating back to a season-opening win over Massachusetts on Sept. 2, and the victory is Coastal’s first win in the Sun Belt Conference in its first year in the league.
“It feels great to be a part of history, the first Sun Belt win in school history. It just feels good to get back to winning,” redshirt freshman running back Alex James of Florence told WRNN FM radio after the game. “It’s been tough trying to figure out ways and change things to figure out what we were doing wrong, so getting back to winning is good.”
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The game was a defensive struggle with both teams starting backup quarterbacks. Coastal had 275 yards of offense and Idaho (3-7) had 277 while falling to 2-4 in the conference.
“Finally the players are rewarded with something tangible,” Coastal interim head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “They can see a victory, they can feel that. Lately we’ve been playing better, but there has been no win they could feel good about. It’s been more like ‘Hope is coming.’ ”
Junior Kilton Anderson got his second consecutive start at quarterback for Coastal with senior Tyler Keane out with a sprained thumb, and completed 11 of 23 passes for 100 yards while being sacked twice and under pressure much of the game.
“I thought he was pretty consistent,” Chadwell said. “We struggled a little bit to protect him, but I thought he made some nice plays on third down when he needed to. Besides [a fumble] I thought he took care of the ball and didn’t do anything to put us in some bad positions.
“When you’re in a defensive battle like that, you want to score but the main thing is you don’t want to give the other team an opportunity to get great field position, and we did a nice job of that.”
The Chants gained 175 yards on 40 carries, led by redshirt freshman Alex James of Florence with 81 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
“I was just trying to get outside the box and be able to make plays at the second level,” James said. “I just tried to use my speed, use my quickness, use my lateral quickness to get outside and make plays.”
The Chanticleers did not have to face Idaho senior quarterback Matt Linehan, an NFL prospect who has thrown for nearly 11,000 yards in his career, because of an injury.
Instead, sophomore Mason Petrino, the son of Vandals coach Paul Petrino, got his second start of the year and completed 18 of 26 for 177 yards with a touchdown and interception.
“Missing their quarterback, the young man they brought in did a nice job but he really couldn’t throw the ball, so I felt like, ‘Let’s not do anything to lose this game on offense,’ ” Chadwell said. “We tried to be a little conservative and tried to milk the clock, I thought we did a great job there. I’m proud of the defense and proud overall that we ended up finding a way to win.”
Senior running back Aaron Duckworth, the Sun Belt’s leading rusher with 873 yards on the season, gained 70 yards on 18 carries.
Petrino led the Vandals to a touchdown on their first drive, which covered 75 yards in nine plays and culminated with an 18-yard touchdown reception by Alfonso Onunwor.
But the Chanticleers would keep the Vandals off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game.
For them to get a victory – coming a long way across country to get it, the first Sun Belt victory – that’s a positive. Hopefully we’ll build from it. Hopefully this team will be hungry for more.
CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell
James tied the game with a 42-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, bursting through a hole and racing nearly untouched for the score.
Evan Rabon added field goals of 52 and 34 yards late in the second quarter and early in the fourth to build the lead to six points, though he hit the right upright and missed a 48-yard attempt with 5:12 to play that would have put the Chants up by two scores.
On Idaho’s penultimate drive, tackles of running back Isaiah Saunders for losses by Silas Kelly and Myles White put Idaho into a fourth-and-5 near midfield with 3:15 remaining. A sack by Marcus Williamson gave CCU possession with 3:08 to play and Idaho out of timeouts.
The Chants had a fourth-and-5 at the Idaho 27 following three Osharmar Abercrombie runs and Anderson rolled out and gained 2 yards to turn the ball over on downs at the 25 with 41 seconds remaining.
A clipping penalty on Idaho’s final drive backed the Vandals up before time ran out.
“I had a decision whether to kick it or not, and my thought process was the only way I thought they could ever score on us was to block a field goal,” Chadwell said. “That was the only way I thought they were going to do it. I said we’ll put our defense in and our defense did a great job, and our offense did enough.”
Junior safety Fitz Wattley recorded his third interception of the year on the final play of the first half, allowing the Chants to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.
Idaho drove 68 yards to the Coastal 8-yard line on its first possession of the second half before a sack by C.J. Brewer helped stall the drive and Cade Coffey’s 29-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright and was no good, allowing Coastal to maintain the three-point lead.
Anderson was sacked and fumbled at midfield on Coastal’s ensuing possession and Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss recovered, though the Chants caught a break because the play was initially whistled dead because an official believed Anderson was down before losing the ball.
The call was reversed after a video review, but the whistle kept Elliss from likely returning the fumble for a touchdown, and the Chants defense forced a punt.
“I give credit to the guys,” Chadwell said. “For the last three weeks especially we’ve tried to play four quarters of football. No matter what’s happened, we’ve tried to forget about the past and for the past three weeks we’ve played consistent football. I’m not saying it’s been pretty all of the time, but the effort and the mentality and the mindset has been really good.”
“… For them to get a victory – coming a long way across country to get it, the first Sun Belt victory – that’s a positive. Hopefully we’ll build from it. Hopefully this team will be hungry for more.”