Coastal Carolina is down to two games to become eligible for the program’s first bowl game.
Needing one win to qualify for a bowl with its sixth victory of the season, the Chanticleers (5-5) were dominated Saturday for a second consecutive game at Brooks Stadium.
And for the second straight week, it was CCU’s opponent that instead became bowl-eligible on its teal field.
Arkansas State (6-4) showed off the top-ranked offense in the Sun Belt Conference with a 44-16 win.
“It was my fault we did a bad job tonight. I’ve gotten beaten in the 25 years I’ve been coaching, but I’ve never walked off the field and felt embarrassed, and I felt that way tonight,” said a visibly agitated Coastal head coach Joe Moglia after the game. “I feel I let down the entire Coastal Carolina University, I feel I let down the entire community, I feel I let down my players, I feel I let down my coaches, because I am responsible for them to be able to step up. . . . Our coaches and players have responsibility too and that’s something I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we understand and live up to.”
Justice Hansen, the reigning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, completed all but two of his 20 attempts while passing for 253 yards and four touchdowns without an interception before being pulled from the game in the third quarter.
Junior receiver Kirk Merritt had 11 receptions for 180 yards and the Red Wolves averaged 6 yards per carry while gaining 173 yards with a balanced rushing attack.
The Red Wolves had 454 yards of offense and essentially doubled CCU’s offensive production before playing mostly reserves on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter, outgaining CCU 413-228 through three quarters.
In addition to being disappointed in his team’s performance, Moglia was also upset with his team for its behavior and perceived lack of discipline in the game.
The Chants were assessed nine penalties for 86 yards, including a pair of 15-yard penalties for a tackle after the whistle and for a involvement in a skirmish, during which several Chants ran off the bench and onto the field.
The Chants, who Moglia holds to the program’s Be A Man (BAM) standard, also lost one of their four fumbles.
“When you have a program that’s built on BAM, and then you lose your poise, you get in fights, you do all those things, there are penalties all over the place, then we’re not doing the job we should be doing as a staff, and that’s my responsibility. So tonight bothers me,” Moglia said.
“In my six seasons I’ve been coaching here, I don’t think there was maybe one other time a guy got in a fight. Tonight we had a guy get in a fight and more guys jump in, we’ve got guys coming off the bench. That is my fault. That is never supposed to happen at Coastal Carolina.”
The Red Wolves, who are among the Sun Belt’s most penalized teams, easily overcame 10 penalties for 71 yards.
“You have to give [coach] Blake Anderson and Arkansas State some credit,” Moglia said. “I thought they were physical, I thought they were fast. I thought they were all over the place, I thought they executed well. I think they’re a much better team than what their record is.”
Freshman Fred Payton started at quarterback for the third consecutive game for CCU, with senior Kilton Anderson battling a high ankle sprain since the fourth game of the season. Both played extensive minutes Saturday.
Payton completed 11 of 18 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns and gained 26 yards rushing on eight carries, while Anderson was 5 of 13 for 19 yards with an interception.
The Chants had 128 rushing yards on 37 carries and just 70 through three quarters after being held to 72 rushing yards in a 23-7 loss to Appalachian State last week.
Arkansas State has the Sun Belt ’s top offense in terms of yards per game, and showed its offensive proficiency early.
The Red Wolves drove 80 and 95 yards for touchdowns in their first two possessions , the second drive accounting for the longest scoring drive against CCU this season.
The game’s opening drive consisted of seven plays and culminated in an Omar Bayless 6-yard catch from Hansen, and the second drive of 12 plays was capped by a 6-yard Reed Tyler touchdown reception. Hanson was 9 of 11 for 74 yards with the two scores on the two drives.
Coastal answered on its second possession with a 12-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Payton to redshirt freshman Jeremiah Miller on a deep slant over the middle, but Arkansas State scored the next four touchdowns – two in the second quarter for a 27-6 halftime lead and two in the third quarter to establish a 35-point lead. Marcel Murray and Warren Wand each had running and receiving TDs.
Coastal’s opening drive of the second half ended with a turnover on downs after Payton was hit while trying to throw on fourth-and-5 at the Red Wolves’ 39, and Arkansas State drove 61 yards in eight plays for a Wand 20-yard touchdown catch for a 34-6 lead.
A 2-yard Murray touchdown run gave the Red Wolves a 41-6 lead and completed a three-play, 80-yard drive that also included passes of 42 and 34 yards from Hansen to Merritt, and the Red Wolves coasted to the victory with largely reserves playing from there.
“After a loss like that we can see why [Moglia] is mad, why he’s upset,” said sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Clayton, who had five tackles. “But we just need to get back on track, stick to our standard and keep going.”
The Chants have games remaining against Georgia Southern (7-3) this upcoming Saturday at home and South Alabama on Nov. 23 on the road, needing to win one of them to become bowl-eligible.
“That’s never really been in the front of our mind, kind of just in the back,” Clayton said. “We knew we had a chance of going to a bowl game, but it’s really just one game at a time, focus on that game, winning that game, and then the bowl game just comes after that.”