CONWAY, S.C. No. 22 Coastal Carolina put together another solid fourth quarter and got the 28-26 Big South Conference victory over visiting Liberty, Oct. 28. With their fifth consecutive win, Coastal moves to 6-2 and 2-0 in Big South play, while Liberty fell to 3-5 and 0-2 in conference action.
On the second play from scrimmage, fullback Mike Tolbert broke three tackles and out ran the Liberty defense for a 70-yard touchdown. Kicker Josh Hoke's point after attempt was good and the Chanticleers had a 7-0 lead 37 seconds into the contest.
The Flames came back on their first offense possession with a long drive, going all the way to Coastal's five-yard line. After 11 plays, quarterback Brock Smith tried to hit wide receiver Wynton Jackson in the back of the end zone, but safety Quinton Teal got his third interception of the season to end the threat and give CCU the ball back on its own 20.
Liberty got the back back on its own 35 yard line and again mounted a drive, this time with different results. After eight plays over 65 yards, running back Zach Terrell dashed in from 10 yards out and the extra point knotted the game at seven with 2:57 to go in the first quarter.
Both teams had chances later in the half, the best of which resulted in a missed field goal for Liberty, and the two teams went into the halftime locker room tied at seven.
Liberty took the lead on the first possession of the second half after getting the ball on its own 35 to start the drive. LU went 44 yards in 13 plays over 6:55. Zac Kolegue hit a season-long 37-yard field goal and the Flames had a 10-7 lead with 8:00 to play in the third quarter.
After an interception on Coastal's next drive gave the Flames the ball at the CCU 39, Liberty again put points on the board. This time, Kolegue hit from 28 yards out and the margin was extended to 13-7 with 2:42 to go in the third.
CCU again was looking for some spark to the offense and got it on the next drive. After a face mask penalty on a fumble kept the ball with Coastal, the Chanticleers moved the ball to their own 40. Quarterback Tyler Thigpen connected with a wide open Chris Noble for 33 yards and CCU was in business on the Liberty 23. Coastal then moved it on in to cap off the eight play, 78-yard drive, with Thigpen hitting wide receiver Santini Washington for a 3-yard strike. Hoke's PAT put the Chants up 14-13 with 13:21 to go in the contest.
Coastal pushed the lead out with a great individual effort on a play. On 1st-and-19 from the Coastal 34, Thigpen read the blitz and hit wide receiver Jerome Simpson on the hot route. Simpson then broke a pair of tackles for a 66-yard touchdown that gave CCU a 21-13 lead.
Liberty took the ensuing kickoff the distance, as Dominic Bolden returned it 93 yards for the score. Liberty went for two and was unsuccessful on the pass and CCU had a 21-19 lead with 8:59 to go.
The Chanticleers added to their lead with a solid drive on their next possession. Coastal chewed up 4:38 on the clock with an eight-play, 80-yard march down the field. Aundres Perkins capped it off with a 33-yard touchdown scramble and CCU led 28-19 with just under five minutes to go on the game.
Due to three LU unsportsmanlike penalties, CCU kicked off from the LU 20-yard line, but drew their own penalty on the kickoff, giving Liberty the ball on its own 35. Two other Coastal personal fouls pushed the ball down the field quickly and the Flames scored on Terrell's three-yard run just 50 seconds later and the margin was back to two points at 28-26 with 3:28 to play.
After a season-best 34-yard kickoff return by Whittmin Reese, Coastal had the ball on the Liberty 40. On a 4th-and-4 play at the LU 34, Thigpen connected with Simpson for 17 yards and a first down that allowed CCU to run out the remainder of the clock.
Coastal totaled 422 yards of total offense on the day, getting 257 through the air and 165 on the ground. Liberty had 308 yards of total offense, including 181 yards of rushing. Both teams had a pair of interceptions and combined for 190 yards of penalties.
Thigpen again led CCU offensively, going 16-for-28, in windy conditions, for 257 yards and a pair of scores, while running for 41 yards. Tolbert has 71 yards and one touchdown, while Perkins had 41 yards and a score as well. Simpson posted a game-high six catches for 145 yards and one touchdown.
For Liberty, Terrell had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing effort, getting 114 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Rashad Jennings had 14 carries for 60 yards, while Smith was 11-for-17 for 127 yards. Jackson was the leading receiver for LU with four receptions for 62 yards.
Both teams are in non-conference action next week, as Coastal remains home to host Savannah State next weekend, Nov. 4 at 12:30 p.m., while Liberty returns home to host Western Carolina at 1 p.m.