Following an open date one game shy of the midway point of the 2019 season, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell had some time to assess his team’s performance through five games.
The Chanticleers (3-2 overall, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference) are coming off a 56-37 loss on Sept. 28 at Appalachian State (4-0), which would rank 28th in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll based on the votes it is receiving in both.
That loss snapped a three-game winning streak that included a 12-7 win over Kansas – Coastal’s first over a Power Five Conference opponent in program history. Coastal returns to action at 5 p.m. Saturday against Georgia State at Brooks Stadium.
“I’m encouraged in a lot of ways, with the effort we’re playing with, with the way so many guys are stepping up especially with some of our injuries,” Chadwell said. “We’ve still got obviously a long ways to go if we’re going to try to be a good team and ultimately a good program from a standpoint of paying attention to details and doing certain things. We’re not good enough to make mistakes, have Coastal beat Coastal, and beat good teams. Some teams maybe can, we can’t.”
Chadwell believes his players have bought into what they have to do to win with self-awareness.
“I think they realize we’re not the most talented team. I think they know that, I think they realize we have to do little things right each week to try to win football games because of our lack of depth and all these different things,” Chadwell said. “I think they’re realistic about who they are, and sometimes that’s hard because when you win some games you think you’re better than what you are. I think our guys have a good understanding of what it takes for Coastal to win football games.”
Coastal’s offense ranks 44th in the country with nearly 444 yards per game (227 rushing and 217 passing), and though it gave up 56 points to Appalachian State, the defense is still vastly improved this season under new defensive coordinator Chad Staggs.
The Chants were one of the 20 worst FBS programs in total defense in 2018, allowing 450.8 yards per game to rank 110th. This season, they are among the top 20 teams in the country, surrendering 289.4 yards per game to rank 19th in the nation and first in the Sun Belt Conference.
In addition to the coaching staff hitting the road for some recruiting over the past 11 days, the team put extra time into the fundamentals of tackling on defense and the special teams areas of kickoffs, punts, and kick and punt returns and coverages. Against Appalachian State, the Chants were outgained on kick/punt returns 186 yards to minus-4.
“Some of the young guys that have been playing out of necessity you really can hammer home some fundamental things with them. So we really had a lot of fundamental practices, and [worked on] some of the things you need to fix that are hard during a game week, because you try to fix it but also you’ve got to worry about scheming your opponent,” Chadwell said. “We were able to really focus on some technique things, especially special teams wise to try to help us there and try to put some guys in some positions that maybe can help us.”
Because of lingering injuries, some backup offensive players got more work at positions they may play Saturday and moving forward. “They’re going to have to help us long-term, so we did a lot of that this week to try to get those guys comfortable for this next stretch of games,” Chadwell said.
Dan is the man
Georgia State (3-2, 1-1) opened the season with a surprising 38-30 win over Tennessee and is coming off a 52-38 victory Saturday over Arkansas State behind a tremendous day by senior quarterback Dan Ellington of Olive Branch, Mississippi.
He recorded career highs with 382 yards passing and 451 yards of total offense while directing the most prolific offensive day in school history.
Ellington completed 29 of 41 passes for 382 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 69 yards and a TD to lead the Panthers to a school-record 722 yards of total offense, which ranks among the top 10 single games in Sun Belt history.
He leads the Sun Belt with 308.2 yards of total offense per game while ranking second in passing yards and touchdown passes, and the Chants will be tasked with stopping him and an offense averaging 36.4 points and 480 yards per game.
“It’s very evident he has a lot of passion and fight for our university and football program, and just a love of the game,” Panthers coach Shawn Elliott said. “It’s easy to point out, and everybody on our team sees the excitement in his eyes every time he steps on the field and that’s easy to follow and easy to get excited about.”
Likely definitely out
Sophomore tight end Isaiah Likely, who has 13 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns on the season, will miss the first half Saturday because he was ejected in the second half of Coastal’s loss at Appalachian State for a targeting call.
The penalty came in the final two minutes during CCU’s final offensive drive that resulted in a touchdown. Players ejected for targeting in a second half have to sit out the first half of the next game, per NCAA rules.
“We’re going to have to accept that,” Chadwell said. “That was a bad call after watching video, but there’s nothing we can do, they made a final determination on that.”
In Likely’s stead, Shadell Bell will probably get his third start of the season and play most if not all of the offensive snaps in the first half. The Clemson graduate transfer has five receptions for 57 yards and a TD this season.
Chadwell said Coastal won’t get any of its injured starters back on Saturday, so five players will miss at least their fourth consecutive game.
Offensive linemen Steven Bedosky and Seth Harrell, linebacker Silas Kelly and safety Enock Makonzo all suffered lower body injuries in the second game of the season against Kansas and have yet to return.
Senior kick returner and wide receiver Ky’Jon Tyler, who recorded career highs with six receptions and 42 yards in punt returns in the season opener against Eastern Michigan, will miss his fifth straight game with a leg injury.
“Hopefully we’ll get a couple people back by the next open week we have, but we’re not going to get anybody back that we were hoping this week,” Chadwell said. “We’re still probably a couple weeks out from getting a couple starters back.”
The Chants have their second open date following next Saturday’s game at Georgia Southern before a Nov. 2 home game against Troy.
Fame and families
Saturday’s game is both Family Weekend at the university and Hall of Fame weekend, as four former Chanticleer athletes will be inducted into the George F. ‘Buddy’ Sasser Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday during a ceremony at the HTC Center and will be recognized at halftime.
The 2019 class consists of Jessica Alexander (women’s golf), Daniel Bowman (baseball), Rico Noel (baseball) and Lauren Yates (softball).
“It’s always a good crowd [on family weekend] so we’re looking forward to having a good environment there,” Chadwell said.
Who: Georgia State (3-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) at Coastal Carolina (3-2, 0-1)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Brooks Stadium, Conway
Radio: WRNN 99.5 FM