CONWAY, S.C. -- The Coastal Carolina University football team fell at home to the #20 Liberty Flames 43-38 in the Big South Conference opener for both teams at Brooks Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 4. The Chanticleers fall to 3-3 on the year and 0-1 in league play, while the Flames extended their FCS-best active winning streak to 10 and advanced to 5-0 and 1-0 in conference action. The loss was the first in league play in Brooks Stadium since the 2003 season, a streak of eight consecutive wins.
The game had its moments for the Chanticleers, who fell behind 10-0 early in the first quarter after Liberty tailback Rashad Jennings caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Flames quarterback Brock Smith at the 9:36 mark of the quarter. The Flames later added to the lead with a Matt Bevins 22-yard field goal, giving the No. 20 team in the land the early lead.
Quarterback Jamie Childers, who was utilized as a goal-line quarterback throughout the contest, cut the Flames lead to 10-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:56 left in the quarter. The Chants would take a 14-10 lead early in the second half as Chanticleer running back Jamie Fordham broke a 15-yard run for six.
Liberty would then register 17 unanswered points from the second quarter to 4:40 into the third, as the Chants would find themselves in a 27-14 hole. The Chants would add a Justin Durham 42-yard field goal to trim the lead to 27-17.
Liberty had one more big offensive play remaining, and it proved to be a backbreaker. On the ensuing drive and following the kick return, wide-out B.J. Hayes got his hands on an end-around on the first play of the drive and busted out a 66 yard run to stretch the Flames lead to 34-17.
On the following Chanticleer drive, quarterback Zach MacDowall led the offense down the field on a 12 play, 75-yard drive chewing 3:26 off the clock that was capped off by a quarterback keeper to run the score to 34-24. Liberty would answer with a score of its own, making the score 40-24. The Chants would answer back with yet another MacDowall touchdown pass, this time of the 30 yard variety to receiver Marquel Willis with 11:53 remaining in the contest. Liberty would tack on three more points on a Matt Bevins 34-yard field goal to bring the score to 42-32.with 7:34 left.
The Chants were down, but not out. MacDowall would once again lead the Chant offense down the field on a 15 play, 91 yard drive the chewed 4:05 off the clock. The score went to 43-38 after Fordham's scamper. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Fordham was turned stopped at the goal-line, leaving the Chants down by five with less than two minutes remaining.
The Chants, trailing with under two minutes left, placekicker Justin Durham was called on to attempt an onside kick, that was struck well, but the Chants were unable to get a handle on it, turning the ball over to Liberty. On 3rd-and-2, Jennings rushed for 32 yards to the Coastal 1, sealing the Flames the 43-38 win.
The game statistics bore out the overall closeness of the game, as both teams gained over 500 yards of offense, with Liberty racking up 292 yards of rushing and 239 yards of passing, while Coastal Carolina had 382 yards through the air and 152 on the ground. A key difference was penalties, as the Chants had two touchdowns called back on one drive for penalties and ended up with a field goal, finishing up with 10 penalties for 70 yards.
Jennings rushed for 201 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown, while his three receptions went for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Hayes added 76 yards, including the 66-yard run in the third quarter. Quarterback Brock Smith was 15-of-24 for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Dominic Bolden was Liberty's top receiver, catching five passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
The game did break several Coastal Carolina offensive records, as MacDowall set the Coastal Carolina single-game record with 382 yards through the air, passing former Chanticleer All-American Tyler Thigpen with 351 passing yards. Overall, MacDowall was 22-of-44 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and and two interceptions on the night. Willis tied for the fourth best individual receiving game in Coastal Carolina history with145 receiving yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. Coastal Carolina's Jamie Fordham was the team's top rusher, gaining 66 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Coastal Carolina will head to Lexington, Va., to face VMI Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1:30 p.m. Liberty hosts Stony Brook in a Big South matchup the same day at 3:30 p.m.
Coastal Carolina Head Coach David Bennett
"You can't win a championship giving up 43 points. I don't see that happening, so we have to get better in all phases of the game. Liberty University is a classy group. You see Rashad Jennings just slide at the 1-yard line so they can run out the clock, as he knew they had enough points and we had no timeouts left. That's knowing the game of football and that's why he'll have a chance to play on Sundays. We wish them nothing but the best as they are a very good football team. And we can still be a very good football team if we just cut out the mistakes."
Liberty Head Coach Danny Rocco
"Deep down I knew the game would go down to the end. We were hopeful we would put them away tonight. That was one of the big messages we had all week long. We made the plays we needed to make to win the game. Rashad Jennings is an outstanding football player and a class act all the way. He made a great decision at the end to run the clock out."