Football coaches say truly good football teams find a way to overcome mistakes. Charleston Southern tested that theory on Saturday and proved to be pretty good, overcoming a myriad of mistakes to post a 36-14 victory over Charlotte before 4,319 fans at Buccaneer Field.
Charleston Southern improved to 8-1 on the season, 3-0 at home, and will seek to tie the school record for victories in a season at Presbyterian next week.
Junior running back Christian Reyes became CSU’s single-season rushing record holder, rushing for a career-high 181 yards as part of CSU’s 375-yard team effort. Reyes now has 953 yards this season.
“It’s nice to be able to do it today, at home, in front of such a great crowd,” said Reyes. “The guys up front were on point today. They did a great job and gave me lots of room to run. This record is just as much as for them as it is for me.”
Redshirt freshman Danny Croghan threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns as the Buccaneers rolled up a season-high 548 total yards.
“Certainly we are not happy with the mistakes that we made and there are definitely things that we need to improve on and get more consistent with,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “I was proud of our team for the maturity they showed when things weren’t going as well as we would like. Our defense stepped up for us a bunch today. We did some good things offensively but obviously not getting points on some of those drives is something we need to correct.”
Charleston Southern overcame two fumbles inside the 30-yard line and three fumbles overall, missed two field goals and an extra point, and failed to cover a shanked free kick. But CSU’s defense answered the bell, coming up with two turnovers and a safety while limiting Charlotte to 305 total yards.
The Buccaneers wasted two early scoring opportunities in the first quarter, missing field goals of 35 and 29 yards after racking up 115 yards rushing in the opening period.
Charlotte got on the board first when Kalif Phillips scored on a seven-yard run with 6:08 to play in the first quarter.
Backup quarterback Kyle Copeland, who started last week’s game at Colorado, replaced Croghan on CSU’s fourth possession of the half. The freshman quarterback directed a 10-play, 67-yard drive, gaining 42 yards on the ground and scoring on a three-yard run with 12:20 to play in the second quarter. Copeland added a two-point conversion run to give CSU an 8-7 lead.
Copeland’s second possession under center started out productive as Reyes ripped off consecutive runs of 13 and 19 yards to reach the Charlotte 25. However, Copeland was hit by Charlotte’s Nico Alcalde on an option pitch, forcing a fumble which Alcalde recovered to end the drive.
Croghan returned to action for the final series of the first half and directed a nine-play, 82-yard drive in 1:40, ending the drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Glears, sending the Bucs to a 15-7 halftime.
“I thought that late touchdown right before half was really big for us,” said Chadwell. “As frustrating as the half was, we were able to go into the locker room with a lead.”
CSU amassed 302 total yards in the first half, including 209 yards on the ground. The Bucs held a nine-minute advantage in time of possession in the opening half.
The Buccaneers opened the second-half with a 58-yard scoring drive with Croghan connecting with Chris Theodore on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 10:13 to play.
Charlotte answered CSU’s score with a 13-play, 84-yard drive, capped by Phillips’ 14-yard run, trimming the lead to 21-14 with 6:52 remaining in the third. That would be Charlotte’s only possession of the third quarter.
Charleston Southern ate up the remaining 6:52 of the third quarter with 13-play drive extending into the fourth. However, on third-and-goal from the two, Croghan fumbled while reaching the ball out for the goal line and the loose ball was recovered by Charlotte at the three-yard line.
CSU’s defense stepped up, however, tackling Phillips in the end zone on second down, upping the lead to 23-14 with 14:12 remaining the in the game.
Unintentionally, the 49ers pulled off a successful shanked punt on the ensuing free kick, recovering the loose ball at the CSU 44-yard line and denying the Buccaneers a chance to milk the clock. CSU’s defense held strong, forcing a punt with 12:50 left in the game.
“That was on me,” said Chadwell of the mistake on the free kick.
Later in the quarter, linebacker Adam Witzmann intercepted Johnson’s pass at the Charlotte 28-yard line. CSU sealed the victory with Copeland’s five-yard run with 5:09 left in the game, upping the lead to 30-14.
Charlotte fumbled on its next possession, setting CSU up at the 19-yard line. Freshman Michael Holloway tacked on a five-yard run with 3:43 to play, pushing the lead to 36-14 after a botched extra point snap. Holloway finished with 81 yards on 10 carries and senior Teddy Allen had 71 yards on five carries in the fourth quarter.