CONWAY, S.C. -- The Coastal Carolina football team rallied in the fourth quarter for a thrilling 42-35 Homecoming win over VMI, Oct. 27, in the Chanticleers' Big South Conference opener. With CCU Head Coach David Bennett's 100th career coaching victory, Coastal moves to 3-5 on the year and 1-0 in the league, while the Keydets fall to 2-6 and 0-2 in the Big South.
CCU hit the scoreboard on its first possession, marching 67 yards in just five plays and 1:52. Quarterback William Richardson hit receiver Jerome Simpson for a 35-yard strike and Justin Durham's extra point made it 7-0 Coastal less than five minutes in.
VMI had its first score early in the second, as Mario Scott reeled in a 36-yard pass from Kyle Hughes for the score. This wrapped up a six-play, 80-yard drive, with Patrick Sweeney's extra point knotting the game at seven.
The two teams exchanged scored in the remaining minutes of the half. CCU made it 14-7 on Simpson's second score of the game, this time nine yards from Richardson. The Keydets came back and again tied it, this time at 14, on Howard Abegesah's two-yard plunge. The two teams entered the intermission tied at 14.
Coastal received to start the second half and made it good, punching it into the end zone again. This time, fullback Tommy Fraser took it in from four yards out, and the Chants were back on top, 21-14, with just over three minutes gone in the third.
The Keydets answered immediately with a sustained drive of nine plays and 76 yards over 4:01. Hughes took it in himself this time, scoring on a four-yard plunge, and the game was tied for the third time, 21-21 with 7:45 to play on the third-quarter clock.
VMI took its first lead of the game on its next possession but did it in quick-strike fashion. On the third play, Hughes hooked up with slot back Tim Maypray on a 67-yard catch-and-run and Sweeney's PAT gave the Keydets a 28-21 advantage with 3:25 to go in the game.
CCU knotted the game at 28 on a quick drive of its own. After a 15-yard pass interference penalty moved the ball out to Coastal's 38, fullback Mike Tolbert busted off a 57-yard romp to get to the VMI 5. Two plays later, Tolbert scored from the one for the fourth tie of the contest.
The Keydets continued their ball-control style of play and made it count, going 66 yards in nine plays on their next drive. A fumble at the Coastal 1 created a scramble for the ball, but Maypray came up with it in the end zone to put VMI up 35-28 with 6:54 remaining in the contest.
The momentum took a major shift on the ensuing kickoff, as running back Arthur Sitton picked up several key blocks en route to a school-record 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to tie the game at 35. This was the first-ever kickoff return for a score in school history and the eighth longest in Big South annals.
After holding VMI and getting the ball back with 3:08 on the clock, Coastal put the ball in the hand of Tolbert again, and he was up to the task. The senior fullback broke three tackles near the line of scrimmage, picked up a key block downfield at the VMI 25 from Fraser, and went in for a Big South record 86-yard touchdown run to give CCU a 42-35 advantage with 2:51 to play. CCU stopped a last-ditch effort for VMI on an interception by defensive back Brandon Autry with under a minute to go.
VMI dominated time of possession by 10 minutes -- 35:10 to 24:50 and outgained Coastal 525-433. CCU did manage 316 yards on the ground, while the Keydets put together 296 in their rushing attack.
Tolbert finished with a school-record 244 rushing yards, just one off the Big South record, on just 13 carries and two touchdowns. Simpson had four catches for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well. VMI was paced by Abegesah with 116 yards on 23 carries and a score, while Hughes had 20 carries for 88 yards and one score, while going 10-for-17 for 229 with two touchdowns and one interception through the air. Maypray led in the air with four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Coastal heads on the road in conference play, traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to take on the Liberty Flames, Nov. 3. Kickoff at Williams Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m., with the game being televised on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. VMI returns home to host Charleston Southern for Hall of Fame Day, with kickoff slated for 1 p.m.