An early onslaught by Troy was too much for Coastal Carolina to overcome Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Ala.
The Chanticleers fell behind 21-0 in the game’s opening 12 minutes before responding with a pair of touchdowns to cut the deficit to seven. But that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game in a 45-21 defeat to one of the favorites in the Sun Belt Conference.
“They really beat us in the second half,” Coastal coach Joe Moglia said. “A lot of that was beating ourselves, but they really beat us in the second half. They were going after it from the beginning of the third quarter until the end of the fourth quarter.”
Coastal played without senior starting quarterback Kilton Anderson, who missed the game with a left ankle sprain.
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In his absence, freshman Bryce Carpenter completed 18 of 22 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and was credited with 24 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also fumbled once and was sacked nine times for a combined loss of 63 yards.
“He executed passes, especially in the first half,” Moglia said. “Was he making bad decisions in the second half with guys open that he wasn’t getting the ball off? Did protection break down? All of those things actually happened. It’s certainly not easy to go in as a freshman and start. Having said that, Bryce did do a good job. But we need to look at the film to see what our real issues were.”
Coastal, which entered the game with the Sun Belt’s top rushing offense with 266.5 rushing yards per game, was held to 145 yards on the ground on 54 carries. Senior Marcus Outlow had 71 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Troy had 467 yards of offense, including 282 rushing.
Coastal had winning streaks of three games overall and three games in the Sun Belt snapped, and had won five of its past six games.
The Chants (3-2) fell to 1-1 in the conference, while the Trojans (4-1), the reigning Sun Belt co-champions under fourth-year coach Neal Brown who are coming off an 11-2 season, improved to 2-0 in conference play.
“Neal has done a great job with the Troy program, and we’ve got to do a better job and get ourselves there,” Moglia said.
The game was Coastal’s third consecutive road contest over 18 days, and the Chants have been away from campus for nearly three weeks since leaving Sept. 11 before the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Campus has been closed to students because of the storm and flooding, so CCU moved a home game against Campbell to Buies Creek, N.C., and players have been staying in hotels.
“I think it’s fair to acknowledge that they were tired. I know I’m exhausted,” Moglia said. “But the reality is it was tough to finish up with a [poor] second half like we did, and that’s what we did.”
For the second consecutive year, Troy’s scoring against Coastal began on the opening kickoff.
Troy sophomore Marcus Jones returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown Saturday. Last season, he tied an NCAA record with two touchdown returns for touchdowns in a 42-17 win at Brooks Stadium, including the opening kick.
The Trojans added touchdowns on their next two possessions, driving 82 and 80 yards in the process. Wide receiver Luke Whittemore hit Jabir Daughtry-Frye for a 35-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, and B.J. Smith scored on a 1-yard run after he gained 47 yards on a run to the 1.
A Carpenter fumble on a sack on CCU’s next play at the Chants’ 25 gave Troy another scoring opportunity on its fourth possession. But a Sterling Johnson sack on fourth-and-5 at the 20 began a Coastal rally.
The Chants scored on their next two possessions following sustained drives. A 1-yard Torrance Marable TD run capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive and a 1-yard Outlow run on fourth down capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Four plays after Outlow’s touchdown run, cornerback Preston Carey forced a fumble by receiver Sidney Davis that was recovered by linebacker Silas Kelly and returned 5 yards to the Troy 40.
But on fourth-and-2 at the Troy 22, CCU attempted a pass on an end around by wide receiver Malcolm Williams, and he was tackled in the backfield to turn the ball over on downs with just under 2 minutes to play in the first half.
Sophomore Tyler Sumpter kicked a 46-yard field goal to give Troy a 24-14 halftime lead.
“I thought we had a great second quarter,” Moglia said. “If we had maybe converted that fourth-down play and come in at 21-21m who knows what would have happened, but that’s not the case.”
Carpenter completed 10 of his first 11 passes for 92 yards. But his 12th pass was intercepted on the opening possession of the second half by linebacker Tyler Murray, who wrestled a back-shoulder throw from receiver Ky’Jon Tyler and returned it 46 yards to the CCU 30, leading to a 2-yard fourth-down TD reception by Deondre Douglas on an inside end-around shovel pass.
Coastal answered with a 10-play, 67-yard drive capped by a 10-yard TD catch by tight end Shadell Bell, the first TD of the season for the Clemson graduate transfer that again pulled CCU within 10 points.
Prior to the score, Coastal eschewed a 46-yard field goal attempt and instead converted a fourth-and-7 with a 20-yard Carpenter completion over the middle to Jeremiah Miller to the Troy 10.
But Troy quickly extended its lead again. Its first offensive play following Bell’s score was a 41-yard Douglas catch to the CCU 29, leading to a 17–yard TD run by Smith.
Sumpter missed a 43-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter, but a 74-yard Daughtry-Frye touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth gave Troy a 45-21 lead.
A late interception inside the CCU 10 by Chandler Krsyt avoided further damage for the Chants.
Coastal has an upcoming bye week before hosting Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 13 at Brooks Stadium. Moglia said the Chants will have Sunday off and practice much of the week before having a long weekend off.
“I’m proud of the effort our guys have made coming together over the span of these last three weeks, kind of a disappointing way to wrap it up, though,” Moglia said. “We’ll get back to school, we’ll get back to normal and we’ll kind of start all over and kind of review the mistakes we’ve been making over the span of the last few weeks and hopefully fix those.”
Troy – Marcus Jones 96-yard kickoff return (Tyler Sumpter kick)
Troy – Jabir Daughtry-Frye 35-yard pass from Luke Whittemore (Sumpter kick)
Troy – B.J. Smith 1-yard run (Sumpter kick)
CCU – Torrance Marable 1-yard run (Massimo Biscardi kick)
CCU – Marcus Outlow 1-yard run (Biscardi kick)
Troy – Sumpter 46-yard field goal
Troy – Deondre Douglas 2-yard pass from Kaleb Barker (Sumpter kick)
CCU – Shadell Bell 10-yard pass from Bryce Carpenter (Biscardi kick)
Troy – Smith 17-yard run (Sumpter kick)
Troy – Daughtry-Frye 74-yard run (Sumpter kick)