Charleston Southern began playing football in 1991. The school recorded its 92nd win in history on Saturday, and it was the biggest win yet.
Charleston Southern did what few thought they could, upsetting the nation’s third-ranked FCS team, Coastal Carolina, 31-26, improving to 10-1 overall before a record crowd of 6,135.
The Buccaneers, ranked 16th coming into the game, not only won the game on the scoreboard, but proved from start to finish the better team on Saturday. CSU racked up 516 total yards, doubling up Coastal Carolina in time of possession, while limiting one of the nation’s top offensive units to more than 100 yards under their average.
Junior running back Christian Reyes rushed for 117 yards, his third consecutive 100-yard effort, and scored two touchdowns as part of a 323-yard rushing effort by the Buccaneers. Reyes entered the game as the Big South’s second-leading rusher behind Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro, who rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries but did not play in the second half.
Quarterback Daniel Croghan III passed for 166 yards and a touchdown, while backup quarterback Kyle Copeland and backup running back Mike Holloway each added 79 yards rushing.
“We started off great in the first half and our kids were ready to play,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “I thought we took the game to them in the first half, and being able to get out to a nice lead certainly gave our kids a lot of confidence.”
The first 10 minutes of the game could not have gone much better for the Buccaneers. CSU’s defense forced three punts early and the offense managed a touchdown and a field goal.
CSU took a 7-0 lead on Croghan’s 20-yard pass to Colton Korn and went up 10-0 on Mark Deboy’s 37-yard field goal with 7:35 to play in the first.
Coastal Carolina’s offense got untracked on its fourth possession. After managing 17 yards on the first three possessions, the Chanticleers went 93 yards on eight plays, settling for an Alex Catron 21-yard field goal with 1:47 left to cut the lead to 10-3.
After a big kickoff return from Kevin Glears set the offense up at the Coastal 40, Copeland directed a six-play drive and capped it with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Holloway, giving CSU a 17-3 lead with 13:28 left in the second quarter.
Copeland directed another scoring drive, with Reyes giving CSU a 24-3 lead with 5:32 remaining in the first half.
Just before halftime, Catron booted a school-record 50-yard field goal to cut the margin to 24-6 at the break.
“We felt good at halftime, but we knew they would come out and try to take it to us,” said senior linebacker Calvin Bryant. “We knew they were a second-half team and we knew we had to find a way.”
CSU’s offense opened the second half with its best drive of the game, covering 75 yards on seven plays, and Reyes pushed CSU’s lead to 31-6 with 11:52 to play in the third.
Coastal Carolina’s offense made its expected run, answering quickly with a 76-yard drive in 1:19 with quarterback Alex Ross scoring on a 10-yard run to trim the lead to 31-13 with 10:33 to play in the third. Ross finished the game with 242 yards passing.
Charleston Southern had a chance to put the game away, putting together a six-minute drive that reached the Coastal 18. However, Chanticleers linebacker Quinn Backus picked off a Croghan pass at the 10 and returned it to the 44, ending the threat and giving Coastal Carolina tons of momentum.
CSU’s defense made its most important stand, however, forcing a punt, and the Bucs led 31-13 after three quarters.
Coastal’s offense struck quickly again to open the fourth, covering 91 yards on five plays with Summerville grad DeAngelo Henderson, bolting 42 yards for a touchdown with 14:19 to play in the game. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving CSU with a 31-19 lead. Henderson would finish the game with 86 yards rushing.
After forcing a punt, Coastal Carolina marched 72 yards on 12 plays with Ross connecting with Thomas Pauciello on a nine-yard touchdown toss, cutting the margin to 31-26 with 6:07 to play in the game.
With more than six minutes remaining in the game, the pressure fell on CSU’s offense to eat some clock and change field position. The Bucs did just that as Croghan completed three passes and rushed for two first downs. With 1:45 to play, Croghan began taking a knee.
“This was huge for our school and huge for the history of our program,” said Croghan. “I’m so proud to be a part of this. The fans were amazing. It was so loud today and we fed off their energy.
“Our defense was so solid today. We did what we felt we had to do on offense, and the defense just had a great first half. That was the difference, the way they played in the first half.”
Charleston Southern still has work to do in order to clinch the Big South title. The Buccaneers must win at Gardner-Webb next week and close out the season with a home game against Liberty. If they win out, they would win the title outright.
“The biggest thing this win does is it gives our team a chance to control its destiny now,” said Chadwell. “We have work ahead of us, but we have put ourselves in position to do great things.”