After two difficult games on the road to open the season, Saturday’s home opener provided an emotional spark for the Charleston Southern Buccaneers.
CSU lost at Furman and South Carolina in the first weeks of the season but a home-game atmosphere was a big factor for the Buccaneers.
Unfortunately, after taking a 14-0 lead, CSU was outscored 27-7 over the final three quarters, falling to 17th-ranked North Carolina A&T, 27-21.
“You don’t want to take anything away from them. They were a very good team,” CSU head coach Autry Denson said. “I think we are a darn good team as well. That’s what football is supposed to look like. You want to come out on the other side with a victory. It just didn’t work out for us. We took another step tonight. I am really proud of our guys.”
Running back Jah-Maine Martin rushed for 299 yards and two long touchdown runs to pace the Aggies. Martin had 211 yards in the decisive fourth quarter. Quarterback Kylil Carter added 175 passing yards as the Aggies finished the game with 467 total yards, 318 yards coming after halftime.
CSU quarterback Jack Chambers threw for 188 yards but only 22 yards after halftime. Kameron Brown had a career-high nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs managed only 48 rushing yards and 281 total yards.
“We have to clean up some stuff on our end,” Denson said. “Wish we could have made one more play tonight.”
A Buccaneers defense that yielded 119 points in the first two games rose to the occasion on Saturday, allowing only 176 total yards through three quarters. The fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
While CSU sputtered offensively throughout the second half, CSU’s defense began to wear down. Leading, 14-6, heading into the fourth quarter, CSU was hit with an 84-yard touchdown run by Martin. A two-point conversion tied the game at 14.
Disaster struck soon after the touchdown as Chambers was intercepted by Chris Mosely at the Buccaneers 36-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the 33, the Aggies settled for a 46-yard field by Ruiz, taking their first lead of the game, 17-14, with 11:20 left in the game.
With 7:29 left, Ruiz hit the upright on a field goal but CSU was hit with a personal foul, giving the Aggies a first and goal at the 10-yard line. CSU held defensively and Ruiz made good on his 27-yard field goal attempt for a 20-14 lead.
Martin appeared to put the game on ice with a 76-yard burst to the end zone, pushing the lead to 27-14 with 5:27 left in the game.
However, CSU mounted a rally with freshman quarterback Ross Malmgren, who helped break the second-half scoreless drought with a 2-yard pass to Brown with 3:38 remaining. Malmgren completed eight of 11 passes for 45 yards.
“I think the defense did their thing the whole game but we left points on the board on offense,” Brown said. “We’re definitely clicking better but we can be better. We will work hard this week.”
Chambers gave CSU a 14-0 lead early in the second, hitting Brown on a 33-yard touchdown pass and scoring on a 1-yard run.
The visiting Aggies used a pair of short drives to kick field goals of 31 and 43 yards by Ruiz, the last coming as the first half ended at 14-6.
CSU will go back on the road next Saturday, taking on crosstown rival The Citadel. The Bulldogs are coming off an overtime win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.