In a season of remarkable and record-setting performances, the Charleston Southern football team had its worst day of the 2013 season, stumbling to a 27-10 loss at Gardner-Webb on Saturday afternoon in Boiling Springs, N.C.
The loss was CSU’s first on the road after seven wins and, more importantly, the first in Big South Conference play. The Buccaneers fall to 10-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play and will play for a share of the conference title in the regular season finale next Saturday at home against Liberty.
A win next week would secure the school’s first-ever berth in the FCS national playoffs while a loss will likely end CSU’s season.
“Everything is still in front of us. The season has got us to this point. We are playing for the conference championship on Saturday so we have to go out and lay it on the line,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “It’s a new day, a new game and a big opportunity for our football team.”
On Saturday, not much went right for the Buccaneers, particularly in a first half that saw CSU trail, 20-0, to the Bulldogs, who entered the game 0-3 in league play but boasting the top defense in the Big South.
That defense operated at a high level of intensity early, yielding CSU only 79 total yards in the first half. Gardner-Webb (6-5, 1-3) racked up nine tackles for loss in the first half alone, allowing CSU a net of eight yards rushing in the first two quarters.
CSU’s special teams were anything but special with several mistakes in the punt game and allowing a kickoff return for a score.
“We had a bad day in a lot of areas,” said Chadwell. “We were just a little off all day. We had some chances offensively to make a play but we were just off. Credit Gardner-Webb’s defense too. They were good up front but we knew that coming in. It was a matter of plays we were making all season, we couldn’t make today.”
Disaster struck early in the game when CSU quarterback Danny Croghan III was intercepted by Chad Geter on CSU’s first possession of the game. The pick resulted in a two-play, 16-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown burst by Juanne Blount with 11:58 left in the first period.
After a low six-yard CSU punt that appeared to glance off the back of a CSU blocker, Gardner-Webb tackled on a 34-yard field by Jordan Day with 3:02 remaining.
Gardner-Webb had its best offensive drive of the game in the second quarter, chewing up 86 yards on 12 plays with Beatty hitting Kenny Cook on a four-yard pass for a 17-0 lead with 9:11 to play in the second.
Day added a 26-yard field goal, set up by another mistake in the punting game, and the Bulldogs led, 20-0 at the break.
CSU’s defense changed the momentum early in the third quarter when Eli Lee picked off Beatty’s pass over the middle and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-7 with 10:39 to play in the third.
However, the special teams’ mistakes struck again on the ensuing kickoff as Gardner-Webb’s J.J. Hubbard returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a score, upping the advantage back to 20 points at 27-7.
Troy McGowens intercepted Beatty late in the third at the Bulldogs’ 25. CSU reached the seven-yard line but was forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 27-10 with 1:59 to play in the third.
Gardner-Webb finished the day defensively with 13 tackles for loss and four sacks, allowing the Buccaneers 16 total rushing yards.
The lone bright spot for the Buccaneers was its own defense, which allowed only 238 yards and intercepted a pair of passes to set up both CSU scores.
“I thought we played well defensively, particularly in the second half,” said Chadwell.
Charleston Southern Buccaneers wide receiver Larry Jones (18) grabs the ball but has it knocked lose as he comes down by a Gardner-Webb Runnin Bulldogs defender in the second half of the game between the Gardner-Web Bulldogs and Charleston Southern Buccaneers Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Spangler Stadium. GWU defeated CSU 27-10. (Shane Roper/CSU Sports)×