As openers go, Charleston Southern had plenty to be happy about after its 41-31 victory over North Greenville at CSU Stadium on Saturday.
However, the Buccaneers know they will need to be much better next week when they play host to Wofford.
Senior quarterback A.J. Toscano completed 17 of 26 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns and senior Deon Lee caught five passes for 55 yards and two scores as the Buccaneers shook off a slow start and rolled up 393 yards in total offense.
Kwame Krakue and Anthony Chalmers also caught touchdown passes and senior running back Demarcus Moon ran for two TDs.
North Greenville rolled up 405 yards in total offense, but more than 150 came in the last quarter after the Buccaneers had built a 41-17 lead.
"I feel like we got a lot of our kinks out of the way," CSU head coach Jay Mills said. "They had some late scores against some guys that we wanted to get a look at, but I like the way we came out in the second half."
CSU fell behind 9-0 early and failed to get a first down until late in the first quarter.
The Crusaders, with former Clemson quarterback Willy Korn at the helm, marched 71 yards on 13 plays on their first possession before settling for a 26-yard field goal with 7:33 to play in the quarter.
A three-and-out resulted in a CSU punt, which Isaiah Johnson returned 73 yards for a touchdown and the Crusaders led, 9-0, with 6:17 remaining in the opening quarter.
North Greenville head coach Jamey Caldwell, a former Charleston Southern assistant, gave the Bucs life late in the first when he elected to attempt a fake punt from the Crusaders' 40-yard line on a fourth-and-12. The Buccaneers stopped the attempt and took over in great field position at the 34-yard line.
"It was an option play, meaning he had the option to kick it or if he saw something, he could throw it and unfortunately a young player made the wrong decision," said Chadwell. "It was a tough play. It gave them great field position and they took advantage of it."
CSU proceeded to score on its next three possessions.
The first score came on a 1-yard run by Moon with 13:41 left in the second quarter.
Charleston Southern took the lead on a 32-yard pass from Toscano to Chalmers with 10:09 remaining in the half. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving CSU with a 13-9 lead.
Toscano again led the Bucs downfield on their next possession, covering 58 yards on eight plays with Moon scoring from 2 yards out with 4:46 to play in the half.
North Greenville scored its first offensive touchdown of the day with 1:10 to play when Idris Anderson capped a 76-yard drive with a 46-yard run, cutting the halftime margin to 20-17.
Charleston Southern wasted little time getting started in the second half, opening the third quarter with a 61-yard drive on four plays with Toscano connecting with Lee on a 25-yard scoring pass for a 27-17 lead with 13:55 to play in the quarter.
Charleston Southern's next drive covered 86 yards as Toscano hit Gerald Stevenson, Krakue and Lee with key completions. His 5-yard pass to Lee in the end zone pushed the lead to 34-17 with 3:53 to play in the third quarter.
A 33-yard touchdown toss from Toscano to Krakue with 13:57 to play in the game gave the Buccaneers a 41-17 advantage, pushing Toscano over the 200-yard mark for the game.
North Greenville added two late scores in the final five minutes against CSU's backups.
"We've got some things to correct, but we're 1-0 for the first time since 2006, so that's a real positive," Mills said. "Certainly we have to improve and teams typically improve the most between games one and two. We'll get to work this week and get ready for Wofford."
Kickoff for the Wofford game is 1:30 p.m. at CSU Stadium.