Coastal’s road to 100th game paved with high, low points

The Coastal Carolina football team hits an historic milestone with today’s home contest against Presbyterian – the 100th game in the program history.

For those who have followed the Chanticleers since Day One, it’s hard to believe that the number of times the team has teed it up has reached triple digits.

It seems like yesterday that the Chants were holding workouts on golf courses, farms, wherever they could find grass, and practicing all week without a game on Saturdays.

It’s been a lot like watching someone plant a seed, seeing a sapling sprout and grow into a towering tree. There have been sunny days and dangerously windy ones, but the CCU football program stands tall and is deeply rooted. At 60-39 entering today’s game, a winning tradition has been established.

To commemorate the event, Coastal has asked fans to rate their top 10 moments. There have been plenty of them to choose from, especially in the early days when every accomplishment was a “first.”

In fact, my personal favorite was THE first – Coastal’s inaugural game against Newberry on Sept. 6, 2003. The date is forever circled on my mental calendar because it was so long in the making.

Not only did Coastal win its first game ever, it did so in dramatic fashion – a 94-yard touchdown drive, all on the ground, that ended with a touchdown in the final seconds for a 21-14 victory.

The goal posts, which had just been mounted in Brooks Stadium days before, were uprooted as fans stormed the field and celebrated like the Chants had just won the Sugar Bowl. It was just as sweet.

To me it ranks right up there with CCU’s upset of No. 1 James Madison in 2005, over No. 2 Furman in 2006 and the first-ever playoff game at eventual national champion Appalachian State later that year.

Ironically, CCU’s only football coach, David Bennett, can recall those moments, but only through the haze of all the losses. The pain from those linger much longer than the thrill of the big victories.

“You remember some of the great wins, James Madison in ‘05, ‘06 beating Furman here when they were No. 2 in the nation, going to Wofford and outscoring them in a shootout,” he said, “but as a coach it tears at you the ones you feel we should have won that we didn’t win – Charleston Southern in 05, Colgate ’08, Gardner-Webb which we just had, Presbyterian when we were up on them 24-7 at the half in ‘07.

“Those four loses there, they numb you. They pierce you a little bit. When you win a game you feel normal; when you lose a game you feel terrible. As a coach you think more about the losses than the wins. We’ve had some heart-breaking losses but I guess it balances out in the end.”

The same holds true for the players, two of whom were asked to recount their most memorable moments entering Saturday’s Senior Day. Defensive end Corey Hawkins recalls a play he didn’t make against Penn State, a missed opportunity to blow up a handoff in the backfield that eats at him still today. Wide receiver remembers last year’s first-ever home playoff game, a 17-10 loss to Western Illinois.

I remember the tough losses too – “Super Safety” was the low point until the “Three Flags Over Conway” play against G-W two weeks ago. But fans and bystanders like myself, the wins are the ones we recall.

CCU allowed fans to vote on their top 10 moments and the first six have been released (see below). Nos. 3 and 4 will be announced Friday and the top two will be revealed at Saturday’s game.

But it says a lot that, in eight short years, CCU fans already have more than 10 great moments to choose from, and hopefully many more to come in the future.

Memorable Moment #10 — Nov. 13, 2010: Coastal Carolina’s Title Hopes Get Big Boost

Winners of two straight, Coastal hosted 11th-ranked Liberty in a must-win game if the Chants were looking to reclaim their spot as the Big South’s best. Zach MacDowall, who threw for a school-record 383 yards versus Liberty in 2008, accounted for four scores and tied his single-game passing yards record to lead Coastal Carolina to a 45-31 win over the Flames. Matt Hazel also tied a school record, catching three TDs passes in a game. Overall, Coastal rolled up 541 yards of total offense, thanks to Eric O’Neal’s 102 rushing yards.

 

Memorable Moment #9 — Nov. 20, 2004: Coastal Carolina Wins Big South Title Outright

Coastal Carolina became the first school in Big South history to win 10 games in a season and finished its league schedule with a perfect 4-0 mark, defeating Charleston Southern, 56-28, for the program’s first Big South Conference Championship. The Chanticleers rushed for 412 yards, thanks to 195 by Patrick Hall and 116 by Ren McKinnon.

Memorable Moment #8 — Nov. 25, 2006: Coastal Carolina Becomes First Big South School to Reach NCAA Playoffs

Coastal Carolina became the first school in Big South history to reach the NCAA Playoffs, earning the league’s first and only at-large bid. The 12th-ranked Chanticleers would have to travel to Appalachian State, the top seed and nation’s top-ranked team. Tyler Thigpen threw for 351 yards and Jerome Simpson had 132 receiving yards, but CCU fell 45-28.

 

Memorable Moment #7 — Oct. 22, 2005: Coastal Carolina Wins Triple Overtime Thriller

Liberty scored with 32 seconds left to force overtime, but neither team scored in the first two extra periods. Coastal had the ball first in the third overtime and Aundres Perkins scored from five yards out. Per NCAA rules, the Chants went for two, but the pass failed for a 27-21 lead. Liberty had its turn and reached the CCU one before a false start backed the flames up. Facing third-and-goal, Coastal linebacker Anthony Steele put a big hit on Liberty’s QB Brock Farrel and Quinton Teal intercepted the pass in the end zone to preserve the six-point win.

 

Memorable Moment #6 — Nov. 27, 2010: Coastal Carolina Hosts First NCAA Playoff Game in Big South History

By winning the three-way tie-breaker, Coastal Carolina earned the Big South’s first automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs, and remained the only Big South school to reach the postseason. To take it one step further, Coastal Carolina would host the first round playoff contest. Dominique Davenport had two interceptions, including one for a score, but Coastal Carolina could not overcome five turnovers in scoring position and a missed field goal to drop a 17-10 decision to Western Illinois.

 

Memorable Moment #5 — Nov. 20, 2010: Coastal Carolina Has Everything Go Right and Gets Share of Big South Championship

Coastal Carolina scored a school-record 70 points, holding Charleston Southern to three points, which proved key as the day progressed. First, the Chanticleers won and needed Liberty to beat Stony Brook, which it did, to create a three-way for first in the Big South. Keeping CSU to three points, while Liberty scored 54 points on Stony Brook, gave Coastal the automatic berth to the NCAA Playoffs, based on fewest points allowed on defense for the season. For the game itself, Zach MacDowall tied a Big South record and set a school mark with five touchdown passes, while rushing for one score. In addition to the offensive explosion, Coastal scored on an interception return by Tre Henderson and a punt return by Niccolo Mastromatteo, while needing to move eight yards in two plays to score a touchdown as Jeremy Height returned to the kickoff to start the second half 78 yards.

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