BOONE, N.C. — Charleston Southern traveled to Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday afternoon as somewhat of an unknown.
First-year coach Jamey Chadwell’s Buccaneers had grinded their way to a 4-0 start behind an opportunistic defense and an offense that made just enough plays to win. Few believed CSU could put together the type of complete effort needed to beat tradition-rich Appalachian State. Chadwell and his team insisted they could, and they delivered.
In arguably the biggest win in the program’s 23-year history, Charleston Southern defeated Appalachian State, 27-24, stunning a crowd of 29,145 at The Rock.
“Everybody in the country knows who App State is,” said Chadwell after completing an unpredictable unblemished first month as CSU coach. “For us and our program and where we’ve been and probably the perception of it, to beat a team of their level and magnitude will raise the focus on what we’re doing and what we’re trying to become. It’s a special win just because of who they are and what they’ve done. It will pay dividends because it continues to validate what we have in that locker room.”
The victory was no fluke. CSU moved the ball at will against an Appalachian State team primed to move up to the FBS ranks and the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Behind a career-high 167 yards rushing from Christian Reyes, the Bucs totaled 428 yards of offense and held possession of the football for an astounding 42:04.
“I’m not surprised by the outcome,” Chadwell said. “We’ve got an unbelievable group of men in there that believe in each other and believe in what we’re doing, and they never doubted themselves. It’s a great win for us, a huge win, and one that will definitely put us on the map.”
The fashion in which the Bucs cemented the win made it extra special.
CSU appeared to have taken the lead with 5:41 remaining when senior quarterback Malcolm Dixon scored from 5 yards out on an option keeper. But a block in the back penalty nullified the play and pushed CSU back to the 15-yard line. To compound matters, Dixon was injured and unable to continue, leaving the Bucs without their veteran signal-caller.
In stepped redshirt freshman Danny Croghan III, and after an incompletion on second down, the Bishop England product made his third career passing attempt a memorable one. Under pressure on third-and-goal from the 15, Croghan rolled out right and lofted a high pass toward the back of the end zone for Kevin Glears. The Goose Creek product adjusted to the football behind him to pull in a spectacular leaping catch for the touchdown, giving CSU a 27-24 advantage with 5:27 remaining.
“Danny’s obviously not known to be a scrambler, but he found a way,” Chadwell said. “He got out of that pocket, kept his eyes down field and threw a dart. What can you say about Kevin Glears? He went up, the guy’s grabbing his facemask and he just made an unbelievable play.”
The Mountaineers (1-3) responded as Kameron Bryant hit Tony Washington on a 30-yard pass play to move the ball into Bucs territory. But as it has throughout the season’s first month, CSU’s defense came up with a clutch stop as Eli Lee deflected away a fourth-and-1 pass to force a turnover on downs with 3:01 left.
CSU made sure App State would not see the football again, converting two third downs to ice the win. Junior receiver Alex Cruz accounted for the second, racing 17 yards off an option pitch on third-and-8 to set off a wild celebration on the Bucs’ sideline as Chadwell earned a Gatorade bath following three kneeldowns.
“It feels great because of all the people that doubted us,” said Reyes after carrying the ball a school-record 34 times. “We’re believing and trying to earn respect this season for our university, and to put Charleston Southern on the map.”
Charleston Southern converted three third downs and a pair of fourth downs on its decisive drive, and made a living on third down to answer both App State scores in the first half.
The Mountaineers raced out to a 7-0 lead just 1:33 into the contest as quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson connected with Sean Price for 27 yards to set up a Marcus Cox 14-yard touchdown run.
Unfazed, the Bucs answered back with a methodical 17-play, 83-yard drive to take up 9:09 of the first-quarter clock. Dixon found freshman receiver Colton Korn for a pair of third-down conversions on the march before hitting Cruz on a crossing pattern to cash in a third-and-goal from the App State 16.
Cox reached the end zone for the second of three times on the afternoon to push the Mountaineers ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter. CSU countered immediately, converting two more third downs on Dixon passes to move to the App State 14-yard line. Reyes did the rest, making a great second-effort 14-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 14.
Both teams traded field goals to head into the locker room tied, before CSU wore down the Appalachian State defense in the second half. The Bucs ran 81 plays to the Mountaineers’ 51, and rode Reyes to tally 189 yards on 37 rushing attempts following intermission.
“To be able to rush for that many yards and hold the ball for that long, that’s just a testament to those linemen and running backs,” said Chadwell of the way the Bucs controlled the line of scrimmage offensively. “Our running backs ran hard. Our O-line there at the end, we needed a first down and they found a way to get it.
“They grew up a lot today. We knew we had a chance to be a good offense and a good football team. We just needed to keep growing and maturing. I think you saw today when we execute and do the things we need to do, we’re pretty good.”
CSU returns home for the first time in four weeks next Saturday, hosting Division II North Greenville University. Chadwell spent the 2009-11 seasons as North Greenville head coach, leading the Crusaders to the 2011 Division II quarterfinals.