Chants win wild one over Paladins in home opener

Coastal Carolina used a strong passing attack and capitalized on a number of Furman mistakes to take a 35-28 victory in its home opener in front of an announced crowd of 8,636 on Saturday.

All-American linebacker Quinn Backus led the defense with 15 total stops, an interception and a pass breakup on Furman’s final offensive play of the game.

CCU quarterback Alex Ross threw for 245 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions while going 17-25. He also rushed for three yards and a score. Senior Matt Hazel led the receiving core with 77 yards on six catches and also picked up a touchdown on a 24-yard rush.

Senior Lorenzo Taliaferro led CCU’s ground game with 56 yards on 13 attempts and a touchdown. As a team the Chanticleers rushed for 130 yards and four touchdowns.

The Paladins outgained the Chants 431-375 but two missed field goals, a fumble and an interception thwarted Furman a number of scoring opportunities.

After scoring a game-changing touchdown in the season opener off a blocked field goal, Backus gave Coastal an early boost as he intercepted a Reese Hannon pass on Furman’s opening drive. While Coastal got the Furman 12, the drive stalled and Coastal’s field goal attempt sailed wide left.

Coastal forced a Furman punt on its next possession, which Niccolo Mastromatteo returned 19 yards. Mastromatteo then caught a 28-yard pass and Hazel would haul in a 13 yarder.  Five plays later Ross found Thomas Pauciello in the back on the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Dalton Demos ran in the conversion for two points and an 8-0 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, JaDamion Ross forced a fumble and LaDarius Hawthorne recovered on the Furman 24 yard line. After an incomplete pass, Ross hit the left edge and lateralled the ball to Matt Hazel, who tight-roped down the left sideline for a 24-yard rushing touchdown. The two-point play failed and Coastal led 14-0.

As the first quarter drew to a close, Furman put together an eight-play, 89-yard drive that covered 4:44. Richard Feacher capped the drive with a 30-yard touchdown to trim the Paladin deficit to seven, 14-7.

Coastal answered with a 75-yard drive. However, the Chanticleers barely converted a fourth-and -inches just inside the Furman three. On the next play, Lorenzo Taliaferro found paydirt from two yards out to give Coastal a 20-7 lead.

Furman looked to answer with points, but a 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. However, two plays later, Jairus Hollman intercepted a pass and returned it 11 yards to Chanticleer 27.  Once again, the Chanticleer defense stood strong and forced a field goal, which also was wide left to make the score 20-7 at the break.

Furman capitalized on a Marcus McMorris interception to trim its deficit to six, 20-14, midway through the third quarter. Hank McCloud broke up the middle for a 32-yard gain and later capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown rush.

Undaunted, Coastal bounced back to take a 14-point lead. Mastromatteo had back-to-back receptions of 13 and 15 yards – the first coming on a third-and-six. Taliaferro got Coastal to the one on a 10-yard run and Ross snuck into the endzone for a  one-yard rushing score. De’Angelo Henderson ran in the ball to convert the two-point play and give CCU a 28-14 advantage.

The Paladins bounced back on the ensuing drive steadily moving down the field to make it a seven-point game. However, the drive ended with a 23-yard Hannon to Gary Robinson pass. The extra point made the score 28-21.

The back and forth game continued as the Chanticleers answered with a scoring drive of their own and once again owned a 14-point lead (35-21). Henderson had an impressive 12-yard run, John Israel caught a 20-yard pass and Bruce Mapp came up with a diving 19-yard reception. After the Mapp reception from the Furman seven, Henderson rushed six yards before fumbling. However, Tyrell Blanks recovered the ball in the end zone for a CCU score.

Furman once again answered and made the score 35-28. After a holding call and facing third-and-12 from the CCU 27, Hannon hit David Dingess for a 13-yard completion. Two plays later Hannon threaded the needle for a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Culbreath.

After a CCU three-and-out the Paladins received the ball on their own 30 with 2:47 left on the clock. A 14-yard completion to Dingess on second down moved the ball near midfield to the Furman 44. After back-to-back incompletions, CCU’s Colton Blackburn stormed the middle of Furman’s line and sacked Hannon for a 10-yard loss to force fourth down.

On fourth down Hannon looked for Andrej Suttles down field but Backus stepped in front of the receiver and nearly intercepted the pass as the ball dropped to the ground. CCU took over on downs at the Furman 34 with 1:42 to play. Three kneel downs ended the game, 35-28.

Photo by Joel Beachum, Carolina Clicks Photos

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