Coastal Carolina got a reality check Saturday night at Brooks Stadium.
With early bowl projections naming CCU as a possibility in some postseason games, and with the Chanticleers favored by oddsmakers for the first time this season against an FBS opponent, Louisiana-Monroe throttled Coastal 45-20.
The Chants, a touchdown favorite entering the game, fell to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Warhawks (3-4) got their first win in three conference games this year.
“I think they’re a better team than people give them credit for, but I think at the end of the day we just weren’t sharp tonight,” CCU coach Joe Moglia said. “I’m disappointed in that because I thought we had a really good week of practice and we had the bye week that helped us.”
Senior quarterback Kilton Anderson missed his second straight game with an ankle injury and freshman Bryce Carpenter was 9 of 19 for 133 yards with an interception in his second start. Anderson said following the game he was improving and expected to play at Massachusetts next Saturday.
“It was a tough night,” Carpenter said. “I feel I didn’t execute the way I should have. I wish there were some plays I could have back. . . . Compared to other games I’d say I didn’t execute as well as I should have. I’m going to take this game and learn from it and continue moving forward.”
CCU quickly fell behind 14-0 as ULM scored twice in the opening 6:25.
Austin Vaughn scored on a 4-yard run 2:12 into the game to cap an opening six-play, 75-yard drive, and Derrick Gore scored on a 10-yard run that included a big stiff-arm on safety Brayden Matts at the line of scrimmage.
Gore’s score followed a Ky’Jon Tyler fumble at the CCU 42 after Tyler made a catch over the middle. It was one of three CCU turnovers, as the Chants lost two of their four fumbles and Carpenter threw an interception, and theywere whistled for eight penalties for 71 yards. ULM had one turnover and two penalties for 30 yards.
CCU was outgained by only 27 yards in the game, 466-439.
“I’m really disappointed in the penalties,” Moglia said. “We’ve been so much better with that and we emphasize it all the time, talk about it all the time. . . . Some of the mistakes we had tonight we shouldn’t have had. At the end of the day I am the one responsible for the lack of discipline.”
Moglia doesn’t believe the Chants were distracted by the bowl projections that came out this past week.
“I never talk about a bowl. We talked about this game coming up,” Moglia said. “There was nobody playing for us tonight that wasn’t able to concentrate the way they needed to because they were thinking about something else other than playing tonight. We just didn’t do a good job today. That was my fault.”
Coastal has trailed in the first quarter in all six of its games this season.
A 56-yard Charles Ouverson punt that was downed at the ULM 3 helped CCU start its third drive at the Warhawks’ 47, and Coastal had a first-and-goal at the ULM 4 before settling for a 29-yard field goal from Massimo Biscardi late in the first quarter.
A 33-yard run on a fake punt by E.J. Porter, a backup linebacker, to the ULM 26 helped set up a 4-yard Malcolm Williams touchdown run on an end-around that closed the deficit to 14-10.
ULM needed just four plays to respond with a 37-yard Marcus Green TD reception on a deep crossing pattern. Green had a 33-yard reception on the first play of the drive.
The teams traded field goals late in the first half – Coastal went 57 yards in seven plays in the final 50 seconds for a 40-yard Biscardi kick – and ULM took a 24-13 lead into halftime.
Carpenter was sacked near midfield on fourth-and-4 on the opening drive of the second half, but cornerback Anthony Chesley recovered a fumble on a handoff exchange at Coastal’s 34 to regain possession. A 41-yard reception by Williams set up a 6-yard Marcus Outlow touchdown run to pull the Chants within four points.
ULM again answered quickly, however, as Green fought a defensive back for a 33-yard catch at the CCU 7 and quarterback Caleb Evans scored on a 1-yard run to push the advantage back to 11 points, 31-20, with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Coastal reached the 12-yard line in an attempt to get within one score midway through the fourth quarter but Carpenter threw an interception in the end zone while looking for a receiver who was well covered.
The Warhawks tacked on a pair of touchdowns in the final 4:10. Evans scored on a 20-yard run and Gore added a 46-yard TD run with 31 seconds remaining following a CCU fumble.
“We just played a little flat,” said senior cornerback Mallory Claybourne, who had seven tackles and a fumble recovery Saturday. “Defensively we’ve got to eliminate mistakes. Once we eliminate those mistakes we can move forward.”
ULM had big days at the three skill positions, as Evans finished 16 of 22 for 224 yards and a touchdown, Gore had 147 yards rushing on 16 carries with two touchdowns, and Green had five receptions for 111 yards and a TD.
“We weren’t able to stop them,” Moglia said. “We didn’t get our job done. We didn’t stop them.”
Outlow had 104 yards rushing and a TD on 15 carries, and Williams had four receptions for 87 yards.