Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell saw a chance to end a burdensome seven-game losing streak in Sun Belt Conference play Saturday at Brooks Stadium, and he wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass.
Particularly after the Chanticleers lost in triple overtime against Georgia Southern in their last game to extend an overall losing streak to three games.
C.J. Marable scored a touchdown on a 3-yard run with 30 seconds remaining to pull the Chanticleers within a point of Troy, and Chadwell chose to go for two points and for all intents and purposes a win.
“I had made my mind up before the series, I said we’re going for two if we score a touchdown,” Chadwell said. “I was going to end it then regardless of whether it was a win or loss. I wanted us to determine whether we were going to win the game or not.”
Following a pass interference penalty on Troy on the first two-point attempt, Marable scored on an option play to the left to give the Chants a 36-35 win that improved their record this season to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the conference.
“Fortunately we got the [pass interference] and then they lined up exactly the way we wanted them to on the second play and we walked in,” Chadwell said. “. . . Obviously the morale, the work those guys put in and the work we’re asking them to put in, when you can see the fruits of your labor that’s a huge benefit.”
The Chanticleers’ final drive began at their 29 with 2:30 to play and they had one timeout remaining. “If we drove the field there I knew their defense would be tired,” Chadwell said. “. . . You learn every week and say ‘Hey, would you do something differently?’ and I wasn’t about to go into overtime.”
CCU sophomore Bryce Carpenter played every offensive snap at quarterback for the second consecutive game in the absence of Fred Payton, who was nursing a shoulder injury, and was 32 of 45 for 285 yards and a touchdown and has still not thrown an interception this season.
“Fred went down so I just try to step in to help our team and do anything I can do to help our team win,” Carpenter said. “The offensive line held up on that last drive and gave me some time to throw the ball and get it to our play-makers. To go for two, that’s just our coach having confidence in our offense. We felt that and knew we just had to get the job done.”
Carpenter was 7 of 9 for 56 yards on the game-winning drive, with a key completion of 18 yards to Jaivon Heiligh to the Troy 9. “He got drilled and laid there and got back up and the very next play he threw a dart to Jaivon there and got us inside the 9-yard line, and that’s just the toughness [of Carpenter],” Chadwell said.
Troy senior quarterback Caleb Barker completed 26 of 35 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns, adding to his stats that have him in the top 10 in the nation with more than 309 passing yards per game.
The contest was back and forth throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points.
Coastal took its first lead late in the third quarter, 28-21, on a Jacqez Hairston 3-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion pass by Carpenter, who rolled to his right and threw back to the right side to tight end Isaiah Likely in double coverage. That capped an eight-play, 92-yard scoring drive.
Troy (3-5, 1-3) tied the game less than two minutes later, as Barker completed five consecutive passes for 79 yards, including a 19-yard TD pass to Reggie Todd.
Barker remained hot, completing four of five passes on Troy’s next touchdown drive, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kaylon Geiger that put the Trojans ahead 35-28 with less than 9 minutes to play.
Coastal reached the Troy 20 on the ensuing possession, but a third-down sack by Carlton Martial, who is among the leaders in the nation in tackles for loss with 15.5, including two Saturday, stalled the drive and knocked the Chants out of field goal position.
Troy could manage just five plays before being forced to punt to CCU for the Chants’ late score, as Coastal stopped a third-and-3 run up the middle at the Troy 33 for one of six CCU stops on nine Troy third-down opportunities. “The stop there with about 3 minutes to go was big deal,” Chadwell said. “Anytime you can hold an offense like theirs to 30 percent on third down is a big deal.”
The game was a shootout early, as there were touchdowns on the game’s first five possessions in the opening 11:15.
“The first quarter it looked like it was a horse race and things settled down,” Chadwell said. “I thought in the third quarter we took control and then they answered.”
Troy drove 86 yards in 11 plays to score on the game’s opening possession on a 4-yard touchdown run by Barker.
The Chants answered with a long drive of their own, going 75 yards in six plays for a 16-yard touchdown reception by Likely to tie the score. Redshirt freshman Jai Williams had a 46-yard reception on CCU’s first offensive play and later had a 15-yard catch at the Troy 19 to convert a third-and-15.
Troy wasted little time in taking a 14-7 lead, going 78 yards in just four plays and 50 seconds in its hurry-up, no-huddle offense. Jabir Daughtry-Frye scored on a 1-yard run after Barker hit Sam Letton for 30 yards and Luke Whittemore for 38 yards on successive plays.
Coastal answered with a four-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 2-yard Hairston run that followed a 55-yard Hairston run over the left side of the line – the longest run of his career.
Troy went 75 yards in just five plays and 1:38 to score on a 47-yard Reggie Todd reception and take a 21-14 lead.
Troy got the game’s first defensive stop on CCU’s third possession, but Geiger fumbled the ensuing punt and sophomore William Stewart recovered for CCU at the Troy 35. The Chants reached the Troy 20 before Martial forced a Carpenter fumble and Antonio Showers recovered for the Trojans.
Coastal cut the deficit to four points at halftime on a 25-yard field goal by Massimo Biscardi with 38 seconds remaining in the half, and pulled within a point on a 36-yard Biscardi field goal on the first possession of the second half. Each drive consisted of 16 plays, which helped the Chants run 84 plays compared to Troy’s 67 and hold more than a 13-minute time of possession advantage in the game.
Coastal has only four days to prepare for a Thursday night game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Brooks Stadium, but can do so without the anxiety of a long losing streak in conference play that dates back to a win at Georgia State last October.
“It had been a while since we won so this feels really good, we’re going to enjoy it,” CCU redshirt sophomore safety Alex Spillum said. “But come tomorrow it’s back to work, get ready for Lafayette on Thursday night.”