Nov. 3, 2012
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - Coastal Carolina redshirt freshman Alex Ross, playing for injured quarterback Aramis Hillary, threw for 342 yards, including 151 to Niccolo Mastromatteo, and had 404 yards of total offense to lead the Chanticleers (5-4, 3-1 Big South) to a 55-33 win over Gardner-Webb (2-7, 1-3) Saturday afternoon at Spangler Stadium.
While Coastal finished with a 22-point win, the game was a seven-point contest at the start of the fourth quarter. Coastal scored to start the fourth and scored after interceptions by Pernell Williams and LaDarius Hawthorne on Gardner-Webb's first two drives of the quarter.
Overall, Coastal tallied 596 yards of total offense, the second-most single-game total in CCU history. The CCU single-game record for total offense is 638 set in 2006 versus Gardner-Webb. Part of today's 596 yards came on CCU's first drive of the second half, which covered 99 yards in three plays to tie the CCU record for longest drive. (Coastal also had a 99-yard drive at VMI in 2010.)
The 404 yards of total offense by Ross, who rushed 13 times for 62 yards and completed 16-of-20 passes with three TDs and an interception, is the second-best single-game total in CCU history (behind Tyler Thigpen's 425 versus Gardner-Webb in 2006) and the 342 passing yards ranks fifth on the CCU single-game list. Ross also completed the longest and eighth-longest completions in school history.
Mastromatteo's 151 receiving yards ranks third (tied) in the CCU single-game list and marks the second time he has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier this season. The junior added a 20-yard punt return to give him 171 all-purpose yards, the eighth-best single-game total in CCU history.
Not to be lost in the passing statistics is the fact that Coastal rushed for over 200 yards for the fourth straight game. Jeremy Height did most of the work early, gaining 65 yards on nine carries with a score. Height also set the CCU single-season record for all-purpose yards, gaining 100 Saturday as he added eight receiving yards and 27 kick return yards. He now has 1,225 all-purpose yards this year, passing the mark of 1,166 set by Patrick Hall in 2004 when he was named Big South Offensive Player of the Year.
Lorenzo Taliaferro carried the workload through the third and early in fourth quarter, gaining 48 yards on nine carries with two scores. Marcus Whitener secured the win, rushing six times for 79 yards with two touchdowns.
Gardner-Webb set the tone early as its defense forced a three-and-out on Coastal's first drive and the Runnin' Bulldogs marched 72 yards in nine plays on their first drive to take a 7-0 lead. Lucas Beatty was 5-of-5 passing on the drive, including an 18-yard completion to Hudson Smith and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Cook.
Coastal answered back, driving 75 yards in 11 plays. The drive was threatened as Coastal was facing 1st-and-25 after a penalty, but three plays later, Ross hit Mastromatteo for a 26-yard gain and Height followed with an eight-yard touchdown run. However, the point after sailed wide left.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Kenny Little took a handoff and burst up the middle for a 78-yard touchdown. Johnny Hartsfield blocked the point after to keep the score 13-6. Little's run was the third-longest by a CCU opponent.
On the following kickoff, Height returned the ball 16 yards. With that, he became Coastal Carolina's single season leader for all-purpose yards. Ross and Mastromatteo then teamed up for two, 22-yard gains, the second being a touchdown. Again, the PAT was wide left to make the score 13-12.
After forcing Gardner-Webb's first punt, Coastal took its first lead, 20 -13. Height made an impressive four-yard run to convert a third down when it looked like CCU may lose yardage. Then, on the first play of the second quarter, Height reeled off a 32-yard gain. Taliaferro and Ross took over from that point. Ross had a nine-yard gain and Taliaferro picked up 18 yards on three carries, including a nine-yard touchdown run. The Chants went for two and made it as Height took a direct snap in the "Wildcat Formation" and reached the endzone.
The back-and-forth game continued as Gardner-Webb answered to knot the game at 20-20. Facing third-and-nine, Beatty completed a 19-yard pass. Later, he hit Cook for 20 yards and Little scored from five yards out.
After the teams traded turnovers - CCU threw an interception and GWU gave the ball away on downs - Coastal regained the lead with a three-play drive. Ross hit DeMario Bennett for nine yards, Akeem Wesley for eight and Bennett for 60. The 60-yard touchdown ties for eighth on the CCU list for longest reception.
Late in the second quarter, Coastal forced a punt, thanks to a sack by Mike McClure and Quinn Backus. Starting on its own 20, Coastal moved to the GWU 21, thanks to a 34-yard Ross to Tyrell Blanks completion. The drive stalled and the field goal with 12 seconds missed left to keep the score 27-20 at the break.
To start the second half, Coastal forced a punt, which GWU downed inside the CCU one. After a Height run for no gain, Ross hit Matt Hazel for 18 yards. On the next play, Ross hit Mastromatteo for a gain of approximately 12 yards in the right flat near the sideline. Mastromatteo made to players miss and he out-ran the defense for an 81-yard score, marking the longest pass reception in CCU history and putting the Chants up 34-20. The previous long was an 80-yard Tyler Thigpen to Santini Washington completion in 2005 vs. Savannah State.
The Bulldogs came back to cut their deficit to seven, 34-27. Beatty completed a 39-yard pass to Juanne Blount and a 30-yard completion to Carlton Heard. Beatty capped the seven-play drive with a five-yard fade to Cook. A short punt led to a five-play, 55-yard drive. However, on the first play from scrimmage, Tyler McCarthy almost picked off a pass, the ball went off his hands into the hands of wide receiver Deonte Swinton for a 19-yard gain. Heard then rushed for 27 yards and three plays later Blount scored from six yards out. The PAT missed wide right to leave the score at 34-33 in CCU's favor.
The teams traded punts, with Quinton Davis getting two sacks on one drive to force GWU's punt, and Coastal started the fourth quarter on the 50 yard line after a 20-yard Mastromatteo punt return. Coastal went to the ground, passing twice in the 10-play drive. While Ross had a nine-yard carry to convert a third down early, Taliaferro converted third downs with rushes three and six yards before scoring from seven yards out to put CCU up 41-33.
On Gardner-Webb's ensuing drive, Williams intercepted his first career pass to give the Chants the ball on the GWU 33. Whitener took advantage of his playing time, getting a 12-yard gain on third down. He followed that with a five-yard gain and a 10-yard touchdown run, his first score of the season for a 48-33 advantage.
After a Hawthorne interception, Coastal was looking to run out the clock, but Whitener hit a crease up the middle and scored from 39 yards out to provide the 55-33 final.
Coastal Carolina will stay on the road to face Presbyterian College next Saturday (Nov. 10) with kickoff set for 1:00 pm.