Sitting at 1-4 earlier this season, Charleston Southern appeared to be headed nowhere fast and coach Jay Mills was strapped to the hot seat.

Entering today’s season finale at Coastal Carolina, the Buccaneers are 5-5 and gearing for a winning season, and Mills is getting mentioned as a Big South Conference coach of the year candidate.

CSU’s young football team has indeed come full circle, and posting a winning record after an 0-11 season in 2011 and only three wins in 2010 might go a long way in terms of saving Mills’ job.

“I congratulate our players and the coaching staff,” said Mills.

“We have handled adversity and have grown mentally from it. This is a young football team, but it’s a team that has developed a level of maturity and has improved each week. We’re on the right track here. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Coastal Carolina also has plenty to play for today. A win over CSU would send the Chanticleers into the FCS national playoffs as the Big South champion. All this under a new head coach, Joe Moglia, who was hired last November.

“They are an excellent football team and they’re playing their best football of the season at the most important time,” said Mills. “They excel in all three phases of the game and they are playing with a high level of confidence.”

CSU’s defense, which is coming off its best overall performance of the season in last week’s 28-10 win over Gardner-Webb, will have its hands full with Coastal Carolina senior quarterback Aramis Hillary and a balanced offensive attack.

Coastal Carolina averages 441 yards per game, 246 through the air. In the last two games, Coastal has scored 121 points and put up 1,221 total yards. The Chants are averaging 47.5 points per game in their current four-game winning streak.

CSU’s pass defense is allowing 149.9 yards per game, but the Bucs are giving up more than 200 yards rushing per contest.

Coastal has won six of the previous nine meetings in the series with CSU, including last season’s 45-38 shootout.

“Our approach is that this is the biggest game of this week, nothing more or less,” said Mills. “Obviously, we would love to win this game and have a winning season, but one game will not define whether or not we had a successful season.”