The possible distraction of not having their head coach at the game turned out to be no distraction at all for the Charleston Southern football team.
With head coach Jamey Chadwell serving a one-game suspension, the Buccaneers clicked on all cylinders in a 49-28 win over visiting Bucknell at Buccaneer field on Saturday afternoon.
The victory was CSU’s fourth straight, improving the record to 5-2 overall. CSU closes out the regular season with three consecutive Big South Conference games, hosting Gardner-Webb next week.
Like last week’s win over Presbyterian, CSU had a complete game effort on both sides of the ball. Aside from three turnovers and 15 penalties, the day overall was a good day, according to defensive coordinator Chad Staggs.
“I don’t know that we played our best today but you have to give some credit to (Bucknell),” said Staggs, who served as the head coach for the game. “They came out in the first drive and sort of punched us in the mouth a little. We certainly have to play better, but we won the game.
“I thought we matched them physically overall. We will look at the film and see how we played. We have to be more disciplined than we were today. We had way too many penalties today and that’s something we have to correct.”
Charleston Southern rolled up a season-high 548 yards in total offense, displaying good balance with 294 yards rushing and 254 yards passing.
Senior running back Mike Holloway, the school’s career rushing leader, tallied 105 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks, Shane Bucenell and London Johnson, accounted for major yardage.
Bucenell passed for 173 yards and three touchdowns while adding 66 yards on the ground. Johnson, who played the majority of the second-half, rushed for 80 yards and two scores while throwing for 82 yards and a touchdown. It was Johnson’s most extended playing time of the season.
“I just tried to keep my confidence high, that’s when I play my best,” Johnson said. “Coaches tell us all the time to play confident and if we mess up, mess up full speed. I just try to stay in the moment and make the most of it when I’m out there.”
Kameron Brown caught five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns while Saire Davis had his best outing of the season with three catches for 99 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the Buccaneers limited the Bison to 242 total yards, this after allowing Presbyterian 102 yards a week ago. The Bison managed only 71 yards rushing, averaging 1.9 per carry. Safety Corbin Jackson led the unit with 10 total tackles. End Solomon Brown had 3.5 tackles for loss and CSU had 12 hits behind the line of scrimmage in the game.
“It is encouraging that we are able to win when we don’t play perfectly,” Brown said. “We had a few mess ups early but we came back and made the corrections.”
The Bison put together their best drive in the opening possession of the game, covering 66 yards on nine plays with quarterback R.J. Nitti hitting Jack Horan on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 11:39 remaining in the first period.
CSU was quick to answer, however, as Bucenell and Davis connected on a 59-yard scoring toss just over a minute later. Bucenell and Brown combined on a 27-yarder with 9:50 left in the second, then hit on a 13-yard score with 2:26 left in the half for a 21-7 lead.
Bucknell managed a score just before halftime to cut the margin to 21-14 but three CSU touchdowns in the third quarter gave the Bucs a comfortable 42-21 advantage.
For Staggs, his first experience as a college head coach felt like most of other days as an assistant coach.
“It was a pretty normal day and it didn’t really hit me until I had to go out to midfield and meet with their coach,” Staggs said. “Coach (offensive coordinator Gabe) Giardina did a great job with the offense. I think one time he asked me about something. I handled my side and he handled his. I thought it was pretty seamless.”