Eastern Kentucky delivers CCU first loss of Moglia era

Junior Niccolo Mastromatteo reeled in 10 receptions, tying the Coastal Carolina single-game record, for 96 yards and a touchdown to lead the Chants but it was not enough as the 20th-ranked Colonels of Eastern Kentucky used a balanced attack to earn a 35-17 victory on Saturday night in front of 9,316 fans at Brooks Stadium.

Mastromatteo tied Rodney Burgess who caught 10 passes against Jacksonville in 2003 and Jerome Simpson who had 10 receptions against James Madison in 2005.

The Colonels had a balanced attack with 217 rushing yards and 225 passing yards while the Chants had 106 rushing and 233 passing yards.

CCU quarterback Aramis Hillary led the Chants on the ground and through the air with 41 rushing yards on 10 attempts and 205 passing yards while going 24-of-37 with a touchdown and an interception. Mastromatteo led the receivers with 96 yards and a touchdown while Matt Hazel added six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.

EKU’s Matt Denham picked up 121 yards on the ground while Tyrone Goard picked up 113 yards receiving. Jared McClain and T.J. Pryor split time at quarterback for the Colonels with McClain going 7-of-8 for 101 yards , a touchdown and an interception. Pryor was 6-of-10 for 124 yards and a touchdown.

The Colonels struck first, taking the opening kickoff and scoring in six plays. Jared McCLain, the EKU backup quarterback, hit Matt Denham for a 32-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.

The Chants answered right back with an eight-play drive to tie the game at 7-7. Aramis Hillary hit Niccolo Mastromatteo on an eight-yard score, marking the sixth straight game Hillary has thrown a TD.

The teams traded interceptions and punts before Eastern Kentucky’s offense got back on track. With regular quarterback T.J. Pryor back under center, the Colonels used a steady rush attack and took advantage of a CCU pass interference to setup first and goal. Later, facing fourth and one, Pryor plunged over the goal line to give his squad a 14-7 lead.

Coastal got into scoring position on the ensuing drive. Facing fourth-and-10, Coastal attempted a fake field goal. While Austin Cain’s pass was completed to Dominique Whiteside, the play came up inches short. Two plays later, Pryor hit Tyrone Goard on an up-and-out for a 77-yard touchdown and 21-7 lead with 1:25 left in the first half.

To open the second half, Coastal’s Hillary was knocked out of the game on the Chant’s first play from scrimmage to start the third. Alex Ross, a redshirt freshman, came on and got Coastal in the endzone. On third-and-five, Ross hit Matt Hazel the right corner to make the score 21-14 – the first career passing TD for Ross.

Eastern got two big runs to regain a 14-point lead, 28-14. Denham had a 13-yard rush to midfield. Later, facing third-and-nine, Pryor rushed for 21 yards to the CCU six. Denham capped the drive with a six-yard run.

The back-and-forth game continued as the Chants moved 40 yards in 12 plays, including a 13-yard Hillary-to-Tyrell Blanks completion on fourth-and-five. However, a holding call and sack would force Coastal into a fourt-and-24 from the 28. Alex Catron trimmed the deficit to 11, 28-17, by making a 45-yard field goal.

Eastern Kentucky took 6:28 off the clock in the fourth quarter to take a 35-17 lead with 8:24 left. DeShaun Sands finished the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Coastal’s hope of a comeback took a significant hit on the very next drive as a fumble at midfield with 6:29 left on the clock turned the ball over to the Colonels. The Chants’ defense stood strong forcing a three and out.

The Chants opened up their second to last drive with back-to-back completions to Hazel and Mastromatteo. Mastromatteo’s 24-yard reception was his tenth of the game, tying the CCU record. Despite the hot start the Chants had four-straight incompletions to end the drive at the EKU 35, turning the ball over on downs.

The Colonels were able to run 2:24 off the clock in their second-straight three-and out but it only left the Chants with 30 seconds remaining in the game. The game ended on a five-yard completion by Coastal’s Chris Ross to John Israel.

Defensively Coastal was led by Mike McClure who recorded 10 total tackles including two solo. Andrae Jacobs led the team with five solo stops and added an assist for six total tackles. Pernell Williams and Marcus Crowder each added a tackle for loss while Tre Henderson picked off first pass of the season.

Coastal returns to action next Saturday (Sept. 22) at 7 p.m. against Toledo in the Rocket’s historic Glass Bowl. The game will be the first meeting between the team and the Chants second game against a Mid-American Conference opponent (18-0 loss at Kent State in 2009).

Photo by Chuck Silvey

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