BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Quarterback Zach MacDowall threw for 292 yards and three touchdown to lead the Coastal Carolina University football team past Gardner-Webb in Big South Conference action, 23-18, Saturday, Nov. 8, at Coach Norman Harris Field. Earning their first conference win of the season, the Chanticleers improved to 5-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big South, while the Bulldogs drop to 5-5 overall and 0-4 in league play.
Gardner-Webb got on the board first in the final minute of the first quarter, taking advnantage of a Coastal Carolina fumble. Eating up over five minutes of clock time in 13 plays, the Bulldogs capped the 68-yard drive with a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Gates to take a 3-0 lead with 52 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Chants answered on their next possession, using eight plays to go 62 yards down the field. The drive was highlighted by MacDowall’s 35-yard catch-and-run play with Curtis Smiley, who powered through his defender to give the Chanticleers a first down at the GWU 22. Facing a third-and-goal, MacDowall threw a three-yard slant pass to wide receiver Marquel Willis, and James Pallssino banked in the extra point off the left upright, putting the Chanticleers ahead 7-3 with 11:52 to go in the second.
Gardner-Webb put together another scoring drive late in the first half, going nine plays and 64 yards. The drive stalled at Coastal Carolina’s 31 and Gates connected on a career-long 49-yard field goal to trim the Chanticleer lead to 7-6 with 58 seconds remaining.
That was enough time for the Chanticleer offense to add to their lead, as the Chanticleers started the drive on their own 38-yard line after a squib. Coastal Carolina marched up the field behind the arm of MacDowall, using nine plays to cover 62 yards. MacDowall again found Willis on a quick route, this time for a two-yard touchdown with 1.3 seconds on the clock, to make it 13-6 at the break after the missed point after attempt.
A defensive stance by both teams occupied most of the third quarter until Gardner-Webb again slashed the lead. Quarterback Devin Campbell connected with Dobson Collins for the first Bulldog touchdown of the day to cut the lead to 13-12 with 1:15 to go in the third. The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the score, but the extra point barely got over the line of scrimmage and went well below the cross bar, leaving the Chants with a one-point advantage.
After a trade of possessions, the Chanticleers again pushed it down the field after a defensive stand deep in GWU terrirtory and a short punt gave Coastal Carolina the ball at the Bulldog 41. The MacDowall-led offense used only three plays for 41-yards, with the big play a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trent Usher to stretch the lead to 20-12 with 10:53 to go in the fourth quarter.
Gardner-Webb answered on its next possession, with Campbell throwing a 62-yard pass to James Perry, moving the Bulldogs to the Coastal Carolina’s 20-yard line. Later in the drive Campbell connected again with Collins for the 15-yard touchdown, pulling within two points of the Chanticleers at 20-18. Gardner-Webb attempted a two-point conversion, but the pass was broken up by defensive back Marcus Lott and the score remained 20-18 with 9:09 remaining in the game.
With 5:37 to go in the game, Coastal Carolina got the ball back and killed most of the clock, including two key third-down conversions. Eventually, the Chanticleers settled for a 36-yard field goal from Pallassino to go up 23-18 with 47 seconds remaining. GWU tried to move down the field, but stalled out at the Coastal 47 as time expired.
Coastal Carolina was outgained 439-344 but did hold a time of possession advantage, 31:11-28:02, including over 19 minutes of possession in the second half. Part of that margin was due to third-down conversions, as the Chants were 7-of-15 on third-down opportunities, while the Bulldogs were just 4-of-13.
MacDowall finished the game going 21-of-30 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. Wide receiver Jamar Anderson getting five receptions for 72 yards to lead the receiving corps, as four different receivers had at least three catches. Punter Ben Erdman also did a quality job on a windy day, averaging 40.3 yards on seven punts and putting three punts inside the 20-yard line, including two inside the six.
Gardner-Webb was led by two receivers with more than 100-yards of catches, as Perry had six receptions for 131 yards and Collins had six for 105 yards and two scores. Campbell was limited in his success though, as he was just 21-for-45 for 338 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and two sacks, while being held to just 13 yards on 10 carries.
Coastal Carolina makes its final road trip of the season when it travels to Presbyterian Saturday, Nov. 8. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.