The night was all about the lights.
Charleston Southern opened the season with the first night football game ever played at CSU Stadium before a near capacity crowd of 3,759.
The football team did its part, scoring early and often Thursday night in a 61-9 blowout of Point University, an NAIA school located in West Point, Ga.
The Buccaneers scored three touchdowns in the first 10 minutes of the game and linebacker Gabe Middlebrook, a redshirt senior from West Ashley High School, returned a fumble 85 yards for a score early in the second quarter as the Buccaneers led 42-0 at halftime.
In all, Charleston Southern scored touchdowns on its first nine possessions, punting for the first time late in the fourth quarter. Point scored its only touchdown on that punt as Brandon Robertson returned the kick 82 yards.
The 61 points was the most scored by CSU since posting 63 points in a 2005 win over West Virginia Wesleyan.
The school record for points in a game is 71, set in 1998.
"Great atmosphere tonight, great to see our student body and our fans fill the place on a special night for our program," CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. "When you run out of that tunnel and the stands are full, that's a special feeling that we want our guys to experience.
"We had a good win. We talked about being a better team than Point and it was important that we went out and performed. We did some good things."
Junior quarterback Austin Brown, a transfer from UAB, earned the starting nod and directed three crisp scoring drives on CSU's first three possessions. Brown scored two rushing touchdowns - on runs of one and nine yards in the opening quarter - and sophomore Mike Holloway added a five-yard TD run.
Brown closed out the first half with a four-yard scoring pass to freshman Kenny Dinkins. Brown completed eight of 11 passes for 149 yards in the opening half.
Sophomore Ben Robinson also was a big part of the offense, catching three passes for 68 yards and adding 32 yards rushing and a touchdown on three carries in the first half.
Senior running back Christian Reyes, who rushed for 1,254 yards last season, gained 81 yards on 10 carries in the first half. The Buccaneers tallied 297 yards on 29 offensive snaps in the first half. The Skyhawks managed 110 total yards in the first half.
Brown directed two scoring drives in the third quarter, capping a 74-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nathan Prater for a 48-0 lead with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter.
After Point turned the ball over on its own seven on a dropped punt snap, Darius Hammond scored on a seven-yard run for a 55-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
Brown's night ended with 160 yards passing - 9 of 12 passing - and 41 yards rushing with four combined touchdowns.
"The offensive line did a great job tonight, the backs ran hard and the receivers got open," said Brown, who started 16 games over two seasons at UAB. "The defense did a great job of getting us the ball quickly and often.
"I get excited to play every game in any venue, but this was a big deal for CSU and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Charleston Southern finished the night with 502 yards, including 336 on the ground.
"Our running game, that has to be what we hang our hat on, especially while we try to get some guys healthy," said Chadwell. "We ran a lot of guys in there and gave them a chance to show what they could do. I thought we ran the ball very well."
CSU's defense allowed only 152 total yards in the game. Middlebrook's fumble return was the defensive highlight. The return was the fourth longest in Big South Conference history and the second longest in school history.
"I felt myself cramping near the end of the run so I was just hoping I would make it to the end zone," said Middlebrook. "I'm glad that I could contribute but it's all about our team. Our defense, we play as one and we played well tonight."
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