BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. No. 14 Coastal Carolina scored on four straight possessions in the first half and pulled away for a 52-24 Big South Conference win at Gardner-Webb, Nov. 11. The Chanticleers advanced their record to 7-2 and 3-0 and coupled with Charleston Southern's loss at Liberty, secured at least a share of their third consecutive Big South championship, the first school in league history to accomplish that feat. The Bulldogs fell to 6-4 and finished 2-2 in league play.
After stopping Gardner-Webb on a three-and-out, a muffed punt gave the ball back to the Bulldogs at the Coastal 22. Three plays later, Philip Peoples dashed in from five yards out and the extra point made it 7-0 GWU.
Coastal had an immediate answer on its first offensive possession of the game. The Chants marched the ball 76 yards in just six plays over 2:10, with fullback Mike Tolbert (Douglasville, Ga./Douglss County) carrying the ball the final 20 yards. Kicker Josh Hoke's (Statesville, N.C./West Iredell) made it tied at seven with 9:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Chants next possession again had them moving down the field into the end zone, this time on a nine-play, 75-yard march over 3:32. The other half of the starting backfield, running back Aundres Perkins (Effingham, S.C./West Florence) broke three tackles on a 13-yard run for the score. The PAT was good, putting CCU up 14-7 with just under three minutes to go in the first half.
CCU got the ball back in great position after defensive end Ro-Derick Middleton (Holly Hill, S.C./Holly Hill-Roberts) hit quarterback Devin Campbell on a pass, creating a jump ball pass that Ronnie Mason (Durham, N.C./Southern Durham) came down with for his first career interception at the GWU 36. However, Coastal's drive stalled at the GWU 16-yard line and Hoke's 28-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to keep it at 14-7 CCU.
A Gardner-Webb punt and penalty call backed up Coastal to its own 13 on the next offensive possession. That didn't stop Coastal as it put together its longest scoring drive of the game, a 13-play, 87-yard drive over the next 4:39. Perkins plunged in from two yards out and the Chants had a 21-7 margin with 7:26 to go until halftime.
Coastal got the ball at its own 20 with almost seven minutes to go until halftime. The Chants marched it the 80 yards over 11 plays. Perkins scored his third touchdown of the game, but this time in a different way, as he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, the first touchdown reception of his career, and Coastal had a 28-7 lead with less than a minute to go in the half. GWU did not mount a late drive and trailed by 21 entering the halftime break. Coastal had a school-record for a half with 363 yards of total offense.
Gardner-Webb tried an onside kick to open the second half, but Coastal came with the ball and great field possession on the GWU 45. Coastal got to the six-yard line before the drive stalled out, and Hoke split the uprights from 24 yards out to make it 31-7 Coastal with 12:31 remaining in the third.
CCU stretched the lead out on a second-down pass starting at Coastal's 39. Thigpen scrambled and evaded the rush, finding a wide open Simpson in the flat at GWU's 40. He picked up two blocks on the run, including at the 10 and punched it in the end zone to make it 38-7 for Coastal.
GWU cut into the lead on the next drive, but was stopped after going 63 yards at CCU's 17-yard line. Hunter Smith came on and hit a 34-yard field goal into the wind and the margin was trimmed to 38-10 with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Coastal fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and the Bulldogs recovered on the CCU 15-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Stan Doolittle dove in from the one and the point after made it 38-17 just over a minute later.
The Chants pushed it back out after a Chris Allen (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) interception got CCU the ball in Gardner-Webb territory at the Bulldog 27. Tolbert broke two tackles to score from nine yards out for his second touchdown of the game and the lead was back to 28 at 45-17 with 8:20 to play.
Gardner-Webb came back down the field quickly, scoring in less than two minutes. The Bulldogs got the touchdown on a three-yard pass from Doolittle to Jordan Peyton to make it 45-24 with 6:23 to go in the game.
Coastal was not done, as a Quinton Teal (Bennettsville, S.C./Marlboro County) interception to thwart a GWU drive, and giving the Chants the ball on their own three yardline with 4:05 to go. After getting out of the hole with one first down and on third-and-3, Thigpen went 76 yards on a naked bootleg to the GWU 4. Tolbert punched it in for his third tscore of the day on a three-yard plunge for the final margin.
Coastal set a Big South Conference matchup record with 638 yards of total offense, including 332 on the ground and 306 through the air. Coastal's defense got into the act, tying a school record with five interceptions on the day.
Thigpen set a Big South record with his seventh 300-yard total offense game of the year, finishing with a school-record 425 yards of total offense, including a career-best 119 on the ground. He also was 22-for-27 for 306 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Running back Jamie Fordham (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek) had a season-high 84 yards on eight carries, while Tolbert and Perkins had 77 yards and three scores and 46 yards and two touchdowns, respectively. Defensive lineman Sam Harper (York, S.C./York) had a season-high eight tackles, including three tackles for loss and two sacks.GWU was led by Peoples with 59 yards rushing, while Doolittle was 18-for-27 for 180 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Coastal will return to the friendly confines of Brooks Stadium, hosting Big South and instate-rival Charleston Southern for Senior Day, Sat., Nov. 18 at 1:30 p.m. The game will be televised on SportSouth as part of the Big South's television package and will be televised locally on HTC Channel 66.