STATESBORO, GA. Coastal Carolina could not find a way to stop No. 24 Georgia Southern and lost at GSU's Paulson Stadium, 38-21, Sept. 16. With the loss, the Chanticleers fall to 1-2 on the season, while the Eagles evened their record at 1-1.
GSU got off on the right foot, as running back Chris Covington went 75 yards on the first play from scrimmage and only a diving tackle by sophomore Whittmin Reese (Durham, N.C./Southern Durham) saved the touchdown. After three straight plays of defense, the Eagles lined up for a field goal on fourth down, but Jayson Foster scrambled on the fake, eluding three tackles and diving in for the three-yard score. The extra point made it 7-0 with just under 12 minutes to go in the first period.
Coastal came back with an immediate answer on its first possession, marching the ball 80 yards in 12 plays. Senior Aundres Perkins (Effingham, S.C./West Florence) capped it off with a one-yard touchdown plunge to know the game at seven with 6:41 to go in the first.
Georgia Southern moved it again down the field, but again the CCU defense stiffened near the goal line. GSU ended up settling for a 22-yard field goal from Jonathan Dudley to wrap up the 13-plays, 68-yard drive over 6:04 and give the Eagles a 10-7 margin with 37.9 left in the first quarter.
Another long run to open a drive put Georgia Southern in scoring position, as Lamar Lewis went 44 yards on a run up the middle to put GSU at Coastal's 18-yard line. Three plays later, Covington went in from one yard out to put the host Eagles up 17-7 with just over 11 minutes left in the opening half. The 62-yard drive took five plays and 2:09 on the clock.
After a Coastal punt, the Eagles went on their fourth consecutive long march, going 55 yards again, this time in 12 plays. Dudley however missed the field goal wide left from 25 yards out to keep it at 17-7.
The Chanticleers took quick advantage of it on two plays, as quarterback Tyler Thigpen (Winnsboro, S.C./Fairfield Central) hooked up with wide receiver Jerome Simpson (Reidsville, N.C./Reidsville) on back-to-back plays of 50 and 30 yards, respectively. The last was a touchdown pass on the 36-second drive that narrowed the margin back down to 17-14 GSU with 2:35 to play until intermission.
On the ensuing kickoff, Marquice Maynard gave the Eagles great field position, returning the ball to the Coastal 40. Lewis scored on a 40-yard run on the next play to push the Georgia Southern lead back to 24-14 just 33 seconds later. That was the margin at the intermission.
Coastal's first drive of the second half looked promising, as the Chants had moved into Georgia Southern territory on the first play of the second half. However, a diving interception by Terrione Benefield gave the Eagles the ball back at their own 37-yard line. Six plays later, GSU pushed into the end zone again, this time on a 13-yard run by Foster and the lead was extended to 31-14 with 11:07 to go in the half.
The Chanticleers battled back, as Thigpen and Simpson connected for another touchdown, this time a 58-yard catch-and-run, as Simpson avoided several defenders and broke a tackle en route to the end zone. Senior Josh Hoke (Statesville, N.C./West Iredell) hit the extra point to end the five-play, 72-yard drive and CCU was down 31-21 with 14:12 to play in the game.
Georgia Southern came back on its next possession to again stretch the lead. After starting on their own 17-yard line, the Eagles moved it again down the field. After a very questionable non-fumble call at the CCU 1 kept the ball in GSU's possession, GSU, quarterback Travis Clark connected with tight end Hal Scarborough for a one-yard strike to extend the lead back to 17 at 38-21 with 8:07 to play.
Coastal was outgained 474-429, including 21-16 on first downs. GSU amassed 364 rushing yards, while Coastal had just 99 on the ground.
Thigpen finished the game 17-for-26 for a school-record 316 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Simpson finished with a Coastal record 207 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches. His two touchdown catches brought his career total to 21, tying him with William Andrews, Jr. of Gardner-Webb, while his 195 yards are the second best single-game performance in Big South history.
Georgia Southern had two 100-yard rushers, as Lewis had 172 and one touchdown and Covington posted 131 and one touchdown. Clark was 8-for-15 for 127 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Coastal returns home to host instate-rival South Carolina State at Brooks Stadium, Sat., Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. The game will be televised on South Carolina E-TV.