Coastal Carolina drew the largest crowd in the history of Brooks Stadium on Saturday, but the record attendance couldn’t keep the Chanticleers from dropping yet another Sun Belt Conference game.
Georgia State rushed for 350 yards to extend Coastal Carolina’s losing streak in Sun Belt contests to six games with a 31-21 win in front of an announced attendance of 17,249.
“It means a lot. I wish we could have performed better for them,” junior linebacker Teddy Gallagher said.
Three Panthers rushed for more than 100 yards each, as senior quarterback Dan Ellington and running backs Tra Barnett and Seth Paige all eclipsed the century mark. Ellington, who has been the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, also completed 16 of 24 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
“Their quarterback is a really good player and we had no answer for him all night long,” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “But also we did some things to ourselves with some turnovers, not being able to convert on third down, having opportunities at a turnover and not being able to get it, that were disappointing.
“I’m disappointed in the way we played overall.”
Coastal (3-3) was held to 105 yards rushing and 322 total yards of offense to fall to 0-2 in the conference this season. Coastal’s last conference win was over Georgia State (4-2, 2-1) last October.
Quarterback Fred Payton was the Chants’ leading rusher with 31 yards on seven carries, and he and Bryce Carpenter combined to complete 19 of 31 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers ran 80 plays while Coastal was limited to 58.
“We’d get some good drives but then if we got behind the sticks we had some dropped passes that were huge early in the game, especially there before halftime, that could have been big for us,” Chadwell said. “We had some missed throws where we could have continued some drives. Just overall sloppy in a lot of ways.”
Coastal was 4 of 14 on third down conversions and 2 of 3 on fourth down, while Georgia State was a combined 12 of 21 on third and fourth down.
“You can’t win games doing that against anybody, and we’re not good enough to beat people in this league by playing bad,” Chadwell said. “We’ve got to play well. That’s just where we’re at with our talent level and our depth. And when we don’t play well, these things are going to happen.”
Georgia State achieved 17 of its 22 first downs on the ground, as Ellington gained 128 yards on 19 carries, Barnett had 110 and two touchdowns on 20 carries and Paige gained 104 yards with a touchdown on 13 carries.
“I think a lot of times we were in the right spots, we just didn’t execute,” Gallagher said. “Looking at how many rush yards they had, if you look at the longest rushes for each rusher – 57, 26, 46 – chances are there was someone who could have stopped them at 4 or 5 yards and that takes away most of their rushing yards. Eliminating the big plays, this game probably goes our way.”
The Chants were without three starters on defense including nose tackle Sterling Johnson, who reportedly had an injured tailbone, as well as backup linebacker Jamar Darboe. They were also without three starting offensive lineman and started true freshman Kameren Stewart, who is 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, at left tackle.
“Freshmen are going to play. People are going to get hurt. It’s football. So your next person has to step up to win games.” said sophomore wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh, who has a team-high six receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia State took command by outscoring the Chants 28-10 in the second and third quarters.
Coastal rallied from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and two-point conversion, and drove to the Panthers’ 8 before turning the ball over on downs with 3 minutes to play after a snap wasn’t executed cleanly on fourth-and-1.
The teams exchanged 38-yard field goals in the first quarter.
A Fred Payton fumble at the Coastal 44 on a quarterback option run led to Georgia State’s first points, as the Panthers converted a fourth-and-6 at the 40 with a 12-yard pass to Cornelius McCoy prior to Brandon Wright’s field goal.
Massimo Biscardi tied the game for CCU after a 37-yard Payton option run around left end and 4-yard Jacqez Hairston run on a fourth-and-1 at the GSU 29.
An Alex Spillum interception of Ellington, who was pressured by C.J. Brewer, gave CCU possession at the Panthers’ 43 and Bryce Carpenter led the Chants on a drive that culminated with a 21-yard Biscardi field goal. Aaron Bedgood had a 19-yard run on the drive and tight end Shadell Bell was missed in the end zone on a third down pass from the 4.
Georgia State took a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter on a 46-yard run by Paige, who kicked an inside handoff around the left side and raced down the sideline for the score. The Panthers added to their lead with a 15-play, 70-yard drive on their next possession, culminating with a 3-yard McCoy TD reception.
Coastal scored on the opening possession of the second half to cut the deficit to four points, driving 75 yards in nine plays for a 20-yard Heiligh touchdown reception from Carpenter, his former high school teammate. The drive included a 23-yard run by C.J. Marable and 18-yard reception by tight end Isaiah Likely, who was suspended for the first half because of a targeting penalty late in Coastal’s previous game at Appalachian State.
Georgia State immediately reestablished an 11-point lead by also driving 75 yards in nine plays for a score on a 26-yard run over left guard by Barnett, and Barnett added a 2-yard touchdown run less than 5 minutes later following a 57-yard Ellington run to put the Panthers ahead 31-13 late in the third quarter.
The Chants pulled within 10 points on a 5-yard Carpenter touchdown pass to Marable on fourth-and-3. Marable picked up a block after catching the ball in the right flat and dived for the pylon, and Ky’Jon Tyler, who returned from injury Saturday after missing four games, scored the two-point conversion on an end-around run.
The Chants drove just 23 yards for the score after Wright shanked a punt.
Coastal forced another punt on Georgia State’s ensuing possession but Tyler had the ball ripped out of his arm on the return by Tucker Gregg and the fumble was recovered by GSU’s Keon Carter.
Wright missed a 30-yard field goal with 5:21 to play and Carpenter led a 72-yard, 11-play drive in 2:20 to the Georgia State 8, but Hairston was stopped for no gain on third-and-1 and the snap was bobbled on fourth down on an attempted quarterback sneak that came up short. It was Coastal’s first unsuccessful fourth down attempt in 12 tries this season. The Chants were 2-for-2 previously in the game.
Carpenter was 9 of 14 for 118 yards and both of CCU’s touchdowns and was featured in the fourth quarter.
“I think [Carpenter] brings some good energy for us,” Chadwell said. “When he was in there we were able to move the ball for the most part. . . . He’s tough, he’s physical. He doesn’t complain. He does a good job when his number is called. I thought he gave us a chance, made some plays and drove us down [the field].”
Coastal will try to snap its six-game Sun Belt losing streak next Saturday at Georgia Southern.