CONWAY, S.C. The Coastal Carolina football team fell behind on three separate occasions but rallied late for a thrilling 29-27 home win over No. 3 Furman, Oct. 7. With the victory in front of a Brooks Stadium record 10,013, the eighth largest crowd in Big South history, the Chanticleers picked up their third consecutive win and are now 4-2 on the season. The Paladins suffer their first I-AA loss of the year and drop to 4-2.
Coastal took the opening kickoff and moved it effectively down the field. Twice on the drive, quarterback Tyler Thigpen (Winnsboro, N.C./Fairfield Central) hooked up with wide receiver Jerome Simpson (Reidsville, N.C./Reidsville) for significant gains on the drive, totaling 64 yards. The final blow of the drive came as Thigpen connected with wide receiver Perry Parks (Rock Hill, S.C./Sumter) on 3rd-and-goal from four yards out for a touchdown. Kicker Josh Hoke's (Statesville, N.C./West Iredell) extra point capped off the nine-play, 83-yard drive and CCU led 7-0 with 9:54 to go in the first quarter.
The Paladins had an immediate answer on their first possession, going 72 yards on 12 plays over 5:52. On 4th-and-1, fullback Jerome Felton dove into the endzone, with the extra point knotting the game up at seven with just under four minutes to play in the opening period.
The Chanticleers again found a way to move the ball down the field, going eight plays and 69 yards on the 3:43 drive. Thigpen hit a cutback run, breaking through a tackle en route to a 12-yard touchdown run and the PAT made it 14-7 CCU late in the first.
After a muffed punt was recovered by Furman at the Coastal 10, the Paladins took two plays to score, as Cedrick Gipson scored on a 15-yard run. The extra point was good and the score was tied again, this time at 14 with 5:08 remaining in the first half. CCU had one last shot at the end of the half, but could not put points on the board, leaving it at 14-14 at the halftime break.
Furman came out firing to open the second half of play. The Paladins made another long drive down the field, going nine plays and 81 yards over the first 3:42 of the half. Felton again was the man in the end zone, scoring from 12 yards out to put the visitors back on top, 21-14 with 11:06 to go in the third.
The teams would exchange possessions before CCU put together another extended drive. CCU took a game-high 15 plays to go the 65 yards down the field. Thigpen connected with Simpson for his first score of the night to end the 5:54 drive and Hoke's extra point made it 21 all just 12 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Long drives continued to be the order of the day, as Furman moved the ball again. On the ninth play of the drive, quarterback Jordan Sorrells, in for the injured Renaldo Gray, hooked up with wide receiver Justin Stepp for 19 yards to put the Paladins back up 27-21. On the point after attempt, defensive back Quinton Teal (Bennettsville, S.C./Marlboro County) busted through the line and blocked the kick. The ball bounced up and defensive back Sean Lundy (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill (Georgia Military)) scooped it up and scampered the other way with an entourage of blockers to give CCU two points and cut the margin to 27-23 with 9:35 to go in the game.
CCU got it back and made their fourth long drive of the game, taking the ball 65 yards in 12 plays. On fourth down on Furman's 8-yard line, Thigpen faded back, bought time and found Simpson in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The PAT was blocked and CCU had a 29-27 lead with just under six minutes to play.
After an exchange of possessions, Furman had one last drive with just under a minute to play. The drive got to the 50-yard line, where Sorrells faded back to pass. The ball was knocked out of his hand by defensive end Ronnie Mason (Durham, N.C./Southern Durham) and recovered by Sorrells, but the clock expired before another play could be run.
The team totals were comparable, as Furman had a slight advantage in yards, 393-382, and first downs, 26-21. Both teams lost one fumble and each had 45 yards in penalties.
Thigpen had another 300-yard total offense game, going 21-for-33 for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while rushing for a team-best 57 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Simpson hauled in nine catches for 151 yards and two scores. Linebacker Jamar Leath (Elon, N.C./Western Alamance) tallied a game-high 14 tackles and became just the fourth player in Big South history to record 300 career tackles, finishing the game with 307.
Sorrells was 14-for-27 for 168 yards and one touchdown for the Paladins. Gipson rushed for 141 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries, while Felton tallied 14 carries for 86 yards and two scores.
Coastal opens Big South Conference play next weekend, traveling to Lexington, Va. to take on VMI, Sat., Oct. 14 at 1:30 p.m. Furman returns to the field next Saturday, hosting The Citadel at 2 p.m.