Chants facing Gamecocks with upset on their minds

ccufoot-leapingfiveJust in case there was any misunderstanding about Coastal Carolina’s trip to Columbia to face the big boys of South Carolina, the Chanticleers set the record straight this week.

This isn’t about making some token appearance in a big-time stadium and collecting a fat check for rolling over, at least not to the players. The Chants (10-1 FBS) are not only trying for an upset win; they believe they can beat the Gamecocks (8-2 FCS) in their own back yard.

“I expect to win,” declared Coastal senior offensive lineman Jamey Cheatwood. “To clear the air, I am not going up there to make memories or get a moral victory. I am going up there to win a game.”

That may be easier for a player to say, but CCU coach Joe Moglia has a tough decision to make about how much to invest in this meaningless game on paper but meaningful to the school and players. The Chants have had this date circled on their calendars since CCU started a football program in 2003.

But with a date in the NCAA FCS Tournament awaiting his team upon its return from Columbia, Moglia has to weigh his options in whether to subject his starters to the punishment of a full afternoon against the Gamecocks. He hedged a bit when asked about his goal for the game.

“If I can look in the mirror and I can examine my own conscience and I believe deep in my heart that we were well prepared, we executed our way and play to the best of our ability then whatever happens I can live with,” he said. “That’s the minimum.”

And the maximum?

“Yes, I think we can win the game,” he said. “In order for us to win, we can’t have turnovers, we can’t have stupid penalties. We have to make sure they work for the scores they will wind up getting. The team has to be sound and come up with a big plays. In addition, they will have to have some inopportune penalties for them and give up a big play to us. If all of those things happen, then we will have a shot in the fourth quarter.”

Coastal brings one of the top offenses in FCS against one of the SEC’s top defenses, but the biggest mismatch may be on the other side of the field. Coastal’s defense is no match for the Gamecocks at full strength, but the Gamecocks are far from it.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he will play all healthy starters, but several stars are slated for the sidelines. Third-string running back Shon Carson will get the nod over injured regulars Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, and backup QB Dylan Thompson will get some reps for banged-up starter Connor Shaw.

So if the CCU defense can hold its own against USC’s huge offensive line and talented receiving corps, the Chants could get a lot more than a fat check and FBS experience on Saturday. Or they could come limping home heading into the FCS playoffs.

“It’s South Carolina. They are an elite BCS program. They are nationally ranked. They are an outstanding football team. They are good in all phases of the game and they are very well coached. They are loaded with talent,” Moglia said. “It’s a big game for our guys, we know that. It’s a big game for the University. We are excited because it’s a big game.”

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. The game is available on ESPN3 and a pay-per-view basis.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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