SAN MARCOS, TX. — The weather may have been sloppy, but Coastal Carolina was anything but.
The No. 20 Chants defeated Texas State, 49-14, behind a career-high three rushing touchdowns from senior running back CJ Marable, who also added a season-high 157 rushing yards, to improve to 9-0 overall and 7-0 in the Sun Belt Conference, which clinches the Sun Belt Conference's East Division for the first time in program history.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “Obviously, that was something that we’ve not said out loud by any means, but we definitely had it inside of our program … It’s a great reward, obviously, for a long season to be able to go play for that championship, and especially when everybody thought that was not going to happen.”
CCU was picked to finish dead last in the division by the conference in the preseason, but now finds itself with a date with West Division-winner Louisiana-Lafayette for all the marbles in the Sun Belt in a championship game the Chants will host at Brooks Stadium on Dec. 19.
The Chants already defeated the Ragin’ Cajuns this season, 30-27, on a last-second field goal by junior Massimo Biscardi.
In addition to Marable’s success on the ground against Texas State, freshman quarterback Grayson McCall also had himself a day, throwing for 154 yards on 11-for-18 passing and two scores.
Two of junior wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh’s three catches were for touchdowns, and Heiligh also recorded 35 receiving yards on the day. Junior tight end Isaiah Likely led the team in receiving yards with 73 yards on four receptions.
The Chants amassed a total of 572 yards of offense, a whopping 406 on the ground — just 84 shy of a school record — and 166 in the air.
“It was really the line,” Marable said. “The line had a great day. They (were) all blocking, they (were) doing their thing. The line and also the wide receivers blocking on the perimeter.”
The Chants intending to take advantage of the run game going in, and the rainy weather gave them an even bigger reason to go to the ground.
“I was happy,” Marable said. “I was happy because (co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Newland) Isaac told me today’s going to be your day. Put it on your back.”
Also aiding the Chants with the ground game were sophomore running back Reese White, who had 72 yards on seven carries and a score, and junior running back Shermari Jones, who ran for 62 yards on 11 touches.
Junior running back Baden Pinson also got in on the action, picking up a Fred Payton fumble on a bad snap and running it in for a 9-yard touchdown for his first score of the year and second of his career.
Although the Coastal Carolina defense gave up a second-half touchdown for the first time since Oct. 14, it still came up big, allowing just 318 yards of total offense, 116 on the ground and 202 through the air.
Leading the way for the Chants defense was senior defensive end Tarron Jackson, who recorded six tackles — three for loss — and 2.5 sacks.
“We just feed off each other kind of,” Jackson said. “C.J. (Brewer) and Jeff (Gunter) just did their job, did what they needed to do, so I kind of got the products of this game.”
Senior linebacker Silas Kelly also had a big game defensively for the Chants, recording six tackles and 0.5 sacks.
Jackson and Marable were both ecstatic that the team will get to play for a Sun Belt title in three weeks time.
“Man, it feels great,” Jackson said. “I was just talking to Trey (Carter) and Silas and some of the guys I came in with and it’s a blessing to be in this position we’re in right now. We’ve been working for it since we got here, and to get this opportunity is definitely a blessing. A lot of guys come in and they work hard their whole career and they don’t get this opportunity, so it’s definitely a blessing.”
“Man, that’s so…special,” Marable said. “We’re all excited because we know the last two years, or since I’ve been here, we’ve been 5-7 back-to-back, and coming into this season the goal was winning the Sun Belt Championship. We knew what type of team that we had; we that we were capable to do that, so everything (fell) in line like we thought it was going to be. So it’s a blessing, it’s a blessing to be there.”
Next up for the Chants is former Big South rival Liberty (9-1), which Coastal Carolina will host Saturday at Brooks Stadium.
“I know a lot of the guys now, they kind of don’t know the rivalry, but I was here that last game when we played Liberty,” Jackson said. “A lot of the older guys I was with, they kind of instilled some of the knowledge on that rivalry, so I’m definitely going to try to bring back that Liberty-Coastal rivalry. But it’s the next game so it’s the most important one, so we’re going to go into it like that and we’re going to prepare as such.”