Charleston Southern knocks off North Greenville to stay unbeaten

CSU's Dylan Black blocks a field goal attempt by North Greenville's Justin Gravely during Saturday's game at Buccaneer Field. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

There was little doubt that Saturday’s game between Charleston Southern and North Greenville would be an offensive affair. The sellout crowd of 4,523 at Buccaneer Field left entertained, if nothing else.

The two teams combined for 917 total yards and the Buccaneers improved to 6-0 with a 28-14 win over the Crusaders, who lost for the first time in five games this season.

Redshirt freshman Danny Croghan, making his first collegiate start at quarterback, completed 12 of 20 passes for 130 yards and rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Christian Reyes added 168 yards rushing and one TD to pace CSU’s 490-yard offensive effort.

North Greenville quarterback Nelson Hughes completed 25 of 37 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown. Freddie Martino grabbed 13 passes for 179 yards, and North Greenville finished the game with 427 total yards.

“It’s an important win for us because it’s the next one,” said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. “I’m happy to get the victory. I don’t think we played our best coming off the win last week. We found a way to get it done and it’s important because it’s 6-0. It has been a long time since we had six wins here and we got there.”

Charleston Southern rushed for a season-high 354 yards, topping last week’s 299-yard effort at Appalachian State.

North Greenville’s Hughes and Martino wasted little time getting started, combining on a 60-yard scoring pass on the third play of the game, giving the Crusaders an early 7-0 lead.

The Bucs responded in kind with a methodical 10-play, 74-yard drive and Reyes tied the game with a three-yard run at the 9:11 mark of the opening quarter.

Things settled down a bit through the rest of the first period, though Hughes finished the quarter with 145 yards passing and North Greenville totaled 181 yards in the period.

Despite giving up chunks of yardage, the CSU defense stiffened at its own end of the field on several drives. Two drives ended with blocked field goals as Will Hunt and Dylan Black each thwarted kicks.

“Obviously blocking those kicks were big plays by our defense,” said Chadwell. “I thought the defense hung in there. Those guys are tough to defend for four quarters but to hold them to two scores, that’s a pretty good day.”

North Greenville entered the game averaging 35.8 points. The Bucs tallied five sacks and nine tackles for loss. Senior end Will Hunt recorded a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss.

“Their offense is really good and it was a hot day, but we just kept pushing ourselves and I think our depth helped us a lot,” said Hunt.

Late in the first half, after Black’s blocked field goal, the Buccaneers went quickly downfield, first on a 36-yard run by Reyes, followed by a 33-yard pass connection from Croghan to Nathan Prater. Croghan capped the drive with a 1-yard run with 1:35 remaining in the first half, giving the Buccaneers a 14-7 advantage.

North Greenville missed a 32-yard field goal to end the half.

CSU’s offense began to assert itself in the third quarter. After failing on fourth down at the North Greenville 24 in the opening possession, the Buccaneers capped a 60-yard drive with Croghan’s 3-yard touchdown run, pushing the lead to 21-7 with 5:58 to play in the third.

The Buccaneers compiled 289 yards in the second half.

“We seemed to get some rhythm and momentum in the third quarter and being able to run the ball was big for us,” said Croghan.

With its best drive since the first quarter, North Greenville cut the lead to 21-14 with 1:25 left in the third, capping seven-play, 79-yard drive with Trey Walker scoring on a one-yard run.

CSU failed on a fourth-and-1 from the Crusaders’ 26-yard line early in the fourth quarter but put together an 11-play, 90-yard drive that chewed up more than four minutes. The Buccaneers tacked on a score when Alex Cruz scored on a 15-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play, pushing the lead to 28-14 with 5:19 to play in the game.

North Greenville answered with a 68-yard drive to the CSU 7-yard line. However, on fourth-and-goal, CSU defensive back Corbin Jackson intercepted Hughes’ pass at the goal line with 1:45 remaining in the game.

“We came off such a high last week and we were starting a new quarterback in front of a big home crowd, so it was interesting to see how we would respond,” said Chadwell. “We’re still a young team and we’re going to have to keep improving. But wins are hard to come by so we appreciate each one of them, even if we didn’t play as well as we had hoped.”

Charleston Southern opens Big South Conference play next Saturday at VMI.