Fred Payton had the game to himself Saturday night.
Payton has started Coastal Carolina’s first five games this season, but head coach Jamey Chadwell had also played fellow sophomore Bryce Carpenter at the quarterback position for several intervals in each of the first four contests.
Payton played every offensive snap in Saturday’s 56-37 loss to Appalachian State at Kidd Brewer Stadium, however.
Carpenter, who has completed 12 of 20 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and has gained 179 yards on 32 carries this season, did not see the field, though that wasn’t by design.
“I couldn’t get the rhythm. I was trying to get Bryce in and Fred was doing some things and I meant to get him in but just sort of the flow of it and way it was going I didn’t get him in there,” said Chadwell, who calls the offensive plays and has a pair of offensive coordinators. “I’m not saying I should have, but my mindset was I was going to.”
Payton accounted for four touchdowns, completing 20 of 31 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 12 times for 37 yards and touchdowns on runs of 6 and 11 yards. He also threw a costly interception that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown with the Chants trailing by 12 after scoring nine consecutive points in the fourth quarter.
“I thought he did some good stuff,” Chadwell said. “He did have that one decision there that was a costly one, and somebody ran a wrong route there that hurt him. I thought he made some nice plays. He stayed in there, hung in there. We didn’t protect him on certain plays where he could have really helped us.
“. . . If [Payton] continues to improve and continues to make strides it makes us a better offense.”
The two quarterbacks have spoken over the past couple weeks about their relationship.
“One of our main core values is compete,” said Payton, of Suwanee, Ga. “So it’s always going to be competitive, but it’s competitive in a sense we’re making each other better. So every time each one of us comes off we dap each other, give each other a hug. When another person makes a great play we cheer them on. There’s no hostility, no hard feelings in the room, the QB room, but it’s definitely still competitive.”
Both players started games as freshmen last season.
“We’re definitely supporting each other,” said Carpenter, of Sarasota, Fla. “We want each other to succeed. We both just want the offense to go. We want whatever’s best for the team. We try to compete with each other in practice and make each other better, and try to feed off each other’s energy.”
Chadwell said this past Monday that he’d prefer to have one consistent starter run the offense.
“We’re still trying to get a guy predominantly there,” Chadwell said. “They both have been doing some good things so you try to use both of them in certain situations throughout the game, but ideally you’d love to have it where this [one] guy rolls with it. But until we’re comfortable doing that or until we feel that’s the best thing we’ve got to do, we’ll keep it going the way we have.
“There has been some good with it and there needs to be some improvement. But I think . . .they each give us a different way to move the ball and score points.”
Some poor specials teams play contributed to consistently exceptional Appalachian State field position to set up short scoring drives. It’s how the Mountaineers scored 56 points with 430 yards of offense.
Four short Myles Prosser punts were followed by ASU touchdowns.
He had a 33-yard punt partially blocked against heavy pressure in the first quarter, leading to just a 58-yard TD drive. A low 36-yard punt was returned 12 yards to the CCU 29 in the second quarter, a shanked 23-yard punt went out of bounds at the CCU 43 in the third quarter, and a 38-yard punt in the fourth was returned 25 yards to the CCU 39.
A poor decision on a kickoff late in the first half also contributed to an ASU touchdown.
On a high kickoff that came from the 50-yard line because of a CCU penalty on a previous touchdown play, Jacqez Hairston fielded the ball at the 7 and fumbled at the 17. Anthony McAfee recovered for CCU at the 3, but had Hairston made a fair catch against a kickoff coverage team that had 15 fewer yards to cover, Coastal would have begun its drive at the 25. ASU scored six plays later with just 45 seconds left in the half.
“It’s a challenge right now,” Chadwell said. “In the Sun Belt, with your lack of depth, with your overall lack of certain things it shows up on special teams. It showed up a lot all year long. We’ve been fortunate really to this point. Last week we got exposed and this week we got exposed. So if that doesn’t get fixed, we’re not going to win many games.”
The difference in kick return yards was glaring. Coastal gave up 186 kick return yards compared to the 4 yards they lost on their lone kick return by Hairston, as ASU had eight touchbacks and did not allow a return on three punts.
Thomas Hennigan had 37 yards on two punt returns and 17 yards on a kickoff return, and Darrynton Evans had 132 yards on four kickoff returns for a hefty 33-yard average per return.
“It’s not necessarily the effort, it’s not necessarily the scheme. Guys have to do their job,” Chadwell said. “That’s where I’ve been really disappointed because we’ve tried a bunch of different things, but sometimes your talent level and the guys out there are giving their all, but sometimes the other guys are better and right now it’s showing up on special teams.”
A week off
The Chants have the first of their two open weeks this season this weekend so they’ll have two weeks of preparation before hosting Georgia State on Oct. 12 at Brooks Stadium. The game time hasn’t been announced.
“We need this to really see who we are during this open week and find out what type of team we’re going to be the last seven games,” Chadwell said.
The Chants go into the break 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference, which drops them to 4-13 all time in Sun Belt play.
“We need the rest. We’re beat up, we’re banged up,” Chadwell said. “I’m pleased in a lot of ways. Our guys are fighting, they’re playing, they’re scrapping, they’re doing everything they can to try to play good football. So I’m pleased with that.
“We’ve got to clean up some things, special teams being one of them. So this open week is going to be important for us one, to try to get healthy, and two, to try to clean up some things. We gave up two touchdowns today to them because of us screwing up and not doing the right coverage. So that’s a frustrating thing. Those are things we can control, Coastal Carolina can control.”
Payton believes the first open week – the second comes Oct. 26 after CCU hosts Georgia State and travels to Georgia Southern – comes at a good time, particularly on the heels of playing Appalachian State.
“It’s good to have a week off coming off a game like this, playing against a higher level of competition, probably the best team we’ll see in the conference,” Payton said. “So now we can go back and we’ll have two weeks to fix things. The more time the better.”
He’s Likely out
Sophomore tight end Isaiah Likely, who had three receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown Saturday, giving him 13 catches for 143 yards and two TDs on the season, may be lost for the first half of Coastal’s next game per NCAA rules.
Likely received a penalty for targeting the head of a defender on a block and was ejected on Coastal’s final drive in the game’s final 2 minutes.
Because he received the penalty in the second half, he will have to sit out the first half against Georgia State unless Coastal can have the call negated.
“That’s a big loss,” Chadwell said. “I don’t know what he did. Maybe it was malicious. They said it was a blind-side block. It was a screen pass, so I don’t know how you get a blind-side block on a screen pass. That will be a tough loss.”