Holy Toledo! Coastal faces tough test, big opportunity

The first official day of fall is Saturday, and so are the biggest football tests of the season for Clemson, South Carolina and Coastal.

The No. 9 Tigers face the de facto ACC title game at No. 4 Florida State, the No. 8 Gamecocks host their first SEC challenge from a team not named Vanderbilt, and the Chanticleers make their annual FBS payday/visit to MAC power Toledo (home of the Mudhens and M*A*S*H’s own Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger).

Of the three big games, none has more to gain than Coastal. Clemson would still have a long way to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division with a win in Tallahassee, and the Gamecocks have bigger SEC fish to fry than Mizzou. But the Chants only get one shot a year to make national noise and news against an FBS program.

The Rockets (2-1) have played hard-fought, emotional battles in each of the last three weeks, beginning by splitting road contests at Arizona and Wyoming, and following up with an 27-15 triumph over arch-rival Bowling Green at the Glass Bowl, where the Chants (2-1) will visit Saturday.

Coastal Carolina won its first two games this season before falling to No. 20 Eastern Kentucky last Saturday, 35-17. CCU quarterback Aramis Hillary has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 771 yards and four touchdowns, most of them to top targets Niccolo Mastromatteo and Matt Hazel. Hillary also is the Chants’ second-leading rusher behind Jeremy Height.

“It’s just like any other time. We are going to go out this week, practice hard and take care of ourselves,” said Height, who has rushed for 185 yards and four TDs. “We are just going to go out there and perform the best that we can and show people what we got.”

The Rockets junior QB Terrance Owens connected on 20-of-28 passes for 303 yards vs. Bowling Green, and freshman WR Alonzo Russell caught six passes for 152 yards, including a 66-yard bomb to open the scoring. Toledo’s defense played its best game yet, holding the Falcons to 15 points and 351 yards of total offense.

“Toledo is going to be a real challenge, but we can’t worry too much about how much of a challenge that is going to be,” said first-year CCU coach Joe Moglia. “We’ve got to continue to do a good job of improving our knowledge and understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

The Chants have not had much success in their five games against FBS schools, going 0-5 and being outscored 223-13. Coastal’s closest game was an 18-0 loss to fellow MAC school Kent State in 2009, falling 18-0. The other losses have come against BCS powers Georgia, Clemson, West Virginia and Penn State.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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