Buccaneers roll to win in opener

CSU's fans get ready for North Greenville before the first game of the season Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 at Buccaneers Field. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Charleston Southern’s football team christened its new turf with an opening game victory, beating North Greenville, 41-14, at Buccaneer Field on Thursday night.

A near-capacity crowd watched the Buccaneers score the game’s first 20 points en route to the program’s sixth home season-opening game victory in its 25-year history. CSU improved to 8-17 overall in season openers.

Junior Ben Robinson rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 15 carries and junior Darius Hammond added a career-high 114 yards as the Buccaneers gained 297 yards on the ground.

Defensively, though they were on the field for 70 snaps, the Bucs limited North Greenville to 268 total yards — well below the Crusaders’ season average last year.

“You always want to try to get that first one,” Chadwell said. “It’s good to be in a tight game early. We can learn a lot from this game. We are trying to get the mindset of playing for a championship every week. It’s good to be 1-0.”

Hammond got things started early for CSU, breaking off a 64-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game for a 6-0 lead. Hammond entered the game with 107 career rushing yards in two seasons.

Late in the first quarter, Robinson capped an eight-play drive with an 18-yard run, giving CSU a 13-0 lead with 1:42 left in the period.

“The blocking was the key,” Robinson said. “The guys up front, the receivers on the perimeter. The holes were amazing. It was a good team win.”

CSU made it 20-0 with 9:53 left in the second when quarterback Austin Brown connected with tight end Nathan Prater on a five-yard scoring toss.

The visiting Crusaders got on the board just before halftime as Simeon Byrd scampered in from 26 yards out, trimming the halftime advantage to 20-7.

Charleston Southern averaged 7.1 yards per play in the first half, totaling 234 yards (175 on the ground).

After recovering a Brown fumble near midfield, North Greenville looked to make it a one score game early in the third quarter, reaching CSU’s 13-yard line. A high snap sailed over backup quarterback Will Hunter’s head, rolled to the 30 and was kicked towards midfield. CSU linebacker Aaron Brown scooped up the loose ball on a dead run and sprinted 53 yards for a touchdown and a 27-7 lead.

“I just took advantage of the opportunity,” Brown said. “It was a big play. I think it did a lot for us as far as momentum. That play allowed us to flip it and gave us an edge.”

CSU’s defense, however, was forced back on the field, and North Greenville took advantage. The Crusaders marched 74 yards on 10 plays, capped by Hughes’ 14-yard pass to Mason Sanders with 6:15 remaining in the third, cutting the lead to 27-14.

North Greenville ran 18 plays to CSU’s two in the first nine minutes of the third quarter.

With Brown out with an injury, CSU turned to backup Kyle Copeland under center. Copeland calmly directed an 11-play, 70-yard drive — all on the ground — with freshman Kelan Fraise scoring his first career touchdown on a 10-yard run with 24 seconds left in the third.

“If we don’t get that turnover, it’s a six-point game,” Chadwell said. “It was a huge play. We were gassed on defense. They came down and scored again. We needed a drive there and Kyle came in and did a good job. That was a key drive in the game. Real proud of his execution there.”

CSU put the capper on the game with 5:29 to play with Robinson scoring on a five-yard run.

“Nice to see us have two drives to finish it,” Chadwell said. “Our plan coming in, we felt like we matched up well up front. We wanted to take advantage of that and I thought we did. They took it away from us some but we did enough. When we needed some drives, those guys were able to get it done.”