GREENVILLE - In a game that featured just about everything a football fan could want to see, Coastal Carolina claimed a 47-45 triple overtime win over Furman Saturday evening at Paladin Stadium.
The stage was set thanks to a feverish last 4:12 in the game. Alex Catron nailed 35-yard field goal to put Coastal up 10, 22-12. However, the Paladins marched right down the field to score a touchdown with 1:59 left in the game. Reigning National Defensive Player of the Week Dontavais Johnson blocked the point after attempt to make it a four-point game. The Paladins executed an on-side kick, recovering the ball on the CCU 50. Nine plays later, true freshman Reese Hannon, who filled in for an injured Dakota Derrick, hit Ryan Culbreath for a 22-yard strike with 40 ticks left.
Coastal started their final drive of regulation on their own 32. Aramis Hillary, who threw for a career-high 292 yards, hit Matt Hazel for 32 yards and then found Tyrell Blanks for 20 to get to the Furman 28. Coastal sent on Catron to send it to overtime, which he did with a 45-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.
Both Coastal and Furman had little trouble scoring in the three overtime sessions. For the Chants, Hillary threw a 35-yard completion to Hazel and Jeremy Height did the rest with a one-yard plunge. In the second session, Hillary found Hazel in the endzone for a one-play, 25-yard score. In the final OT, Hillary hit DeMario Bennett for a 26-yard touchdown. Per NCAA rules, Coastal was forced to go for two. Hillary rolled left, pitched to Bennett, who scored from three yards out on a run-pass option with tight end Thomas Pauciello.
The Paladins had two, one-play scoring drives in the first two sessions. In the third and down eight, Hank McCloud scored from three yards out. Furman attempted a fade pass in the left endzone, but the the pass sailed long to give Coastal the 47-45 win.
Coastal made some critical plays along the way to give it a chance to reach overtime. First, the defense forced three field goals instead of letting the Paladins reach in the endzone. On Furman's first TD, Mike McClure picked off a pass in the endzone for a three-point swing in Coastal's favor. Lastly, Johnson's blocked PAT in the fourth quarter would eventually lead to just a three-point lead, instead of four as regulation expired.
After a 10 minute rain/lightening delay, Coastal took the opening kickoff and drove 79 yards in 12 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Hillary, who completed his first eight passes of the game, went 4-of-4 on the opening drive for 34 yards, two to Hazel and two to Bennett. The senior then capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
The Chanticleer defense forced a three-and-out on Furman's first drive and kept the momentum going to take a 10-0 lead. There were two key plays during the scoring drive. First, Hillary avoided a 10-yard sack by completing a pass to Height for no gain. On the next play, Hillary hit tight end Pauciello down the middle for a 45-yard gain, marking the first career reception for the redshirt freshman. Coastal's drive stalled but Catron came on to split the uprights from 38 yards to the 10-point lead.
The Paladins answered with a 14-play, 58-yard scoring driving of their own as Ray Early cut the Furman deficit to seven, 10-3, with a 37-yard field goal. Furman came up with an interception on Coastal's ensuing drive. However, the Chanticleer defense once again stood firm to force a 41-yard Early field goal to make the score 10-6.
Coastal's offense moved the ball to the 27 but came up empty when a 44-yard field goal sailed left. Furman looked to get on the board too, but quarterback Derrick was knocked out of the game and Early missed wide right from 42 yards.
To start the second half, Coastal moved the ball effectively, but a holding call, a sack and a short pass led to fourth-and-32. The Chants punted but Will King fumbled and Quinn Backus recovered the ball on the Furman 13. Facing fourth-and-one, Lorenzo Taliaferro powered his way forward two yards to the one for a first down. Two plays later, Taliaferro went untouched up the middle for the score. Catron's extra point gave the Chants a 17-6 lead with 2:40 left in the third.
The fourth quarter brought a heavy rain. The Paladins, with backup true freshman Reese Hannon leading the team, moved his team 78 yards in 11 plays, converting a fourth-and-two with a 15-yard completion. Three plays later, Hannon hit Ryan Culbreath in the left corner of the endzone for a five-yard TD. The Paladins would go for two but CCU junior Mike McClure intercepted the ball at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for a two-point defensive score to make the score 17-12. It also marked the longest scoring play in CCU history and the first CCU defensive two-point conversion since Sean Lundy accomplished the feat in 2006 versus Furman.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jeremy Height returned the ball 63 yards which would eventually lead to a 35 yard Catron field goal for a 22-12 lead and set the stage for the remarkable finish.
Coastal Carolina will return to action next Saturday, hosting nationally-ranked Eastern Kentucky. Kickoff at Brooks Stadium for Family Weekend is set for 6 pm.