(Click on the Second Box Score link for David Bennett's Post-Game Comments in MP3 format)
CONWAY, SC --Coastal Carolina rebounded with 14 unanswered points in the final six minutes of play to shock top-ranked James Madison, 31-27, Sept. 10 at Brooks Stadium. With the victory in its first game over a ranked opponent, Coastal moved to 2-0 on the season,while the defending national champions fell to 1-1.
Coastal got on the scoreboard first, as the Chanticleers put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive midway through the first quarter. CCU scored on a 21-yard pass play from quarterback Tyler Thigpen (Winnsboro, S.C./Fairfield Central) to wide receiver Jerome Simpson (Reidsville, N.C./Reidsville) to put the Chants up 7-0 with 5:53 to play in the half.
JMU came up with a response of their own three drives later, going 73 yards in 14 plays over 6:33. After a pair of quarterback sneaks were stopped at the one, running back Alvin Banks scored on a one-yard sweep over the left side to knot the game at seven with 12:11 to go in the second half.
CCU answered on the ensuing drive, marching 56 yarsd in 11 plays, capped off by fullback Mike Tolbert's (Douglasville, Ga./Douglas County) one-yard touchdown plunge to make it 14-7 with 7:16 to go in the half. Coastal had two key plays in the drive, the first on fourth-and-one, with running back Aundres Perkins (Effingham, S.C./West Florence) gained three yards to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Thigpen connected with tight end Nathan Farley (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) for a 18-yard completion to get to the JMU one.
On Coastal's next possession, JMU's Clint Kent intercepted a Thigpen pass at the CCU 38 and returned it to the 26. Three plays later, Banks scored his second touchdown of the game, this time a six-yard rush, and the Dukes tied the game at 14.
The Chants put together a late drive to close out the half, going 58 yards in 12 plays. Kicker Josh Hoke (Statesville, N.C./West Iredell) was good from 32 yards out and CCU headed into the halftime lockerroom with a 17-14 lead.
JMU continued to battle and eventually broke through late in the third. On third and five from CCU's 10, quarterback Justin Ruscati just avoided the rush on a pass play and scrambled into the end zone to give the Dukes their first lead of the game at 20-17 with 3:03 to play in the period. Wantuck missed the extra point though to keep the game within a field goal.
The Dukes took advantage of a Coastal 15-yard punt into the wind and started the drive at the CCU 43. It took them 10 plays, but JMU puched it in the end zone, as running back Maurice Fenner dove in from the one-yard line on third down to put the defending national champions up 27-17 with 9:52 to go.
Coastal would not go quietly, as the Chanticleers came right back with a nine-play, 78-yard march over the next 3:51. Thigpen hooked up with Simpson for a 23-yard touchdown strike in the left corner of the end zone and the margin was back to three at 27-24 with 5:54 to go in the contest. It was the second touchdown of the game from Thigpen to Simpson.
After a six-play drive stalled for the Dukes, Coastal had the ball at its own seven yard line and had 2:14 to play with. Thigpen hooked up with Simpson to start the drive and get to the 14-yard line. After two incompletions, Thigpen and Simpson kept the drive alive with another seven-yard strike for first down. On third and 10 at the 21, Simpson caught a 21-yard pass to the 42 of Coastal. The two would then hook up two straight times, getting the ball to the Dukes 13 yard line. A quarterback sneak by Thigpen put the ball at the eight, setting up the eight-yard pass to wide receiver Perry Parks (Rock Hill, S.C./Sumter), giving the Chants the 30-27 lead with just 34 seconds to play. After an 18-yard kickoff return, JMU was able to get four plays off, the last a "Hail Mary" that was knocked down at the CCU five-yard line.
CCU amassed 415 total yards, including 287 through the air. Thigpen was outstanding, going 24-for-36 for a school record 287 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. He also led Coastal in rushing with 46 yards on 11 carries, as the Chants rushed for 128 yards in the game. Simpson had 10 receptions for a school-record162 yards and two touchdowns.
JMU had 361 yards of total offense, spurred by 190 yards of rushing. Banks led the Dukes with 88 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Fenner chipped in 74 and one touchdown. Ruscati finished with 16-for-21 passing for 171 yards.
Coastal head on the road to face their second Southern Conference opponent of the year, traveling to Appalachian State, Sat., Sept. 17. The kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium.