CONWAY – Coastal Carolina was without injured starting quarterback Alex Ross, but Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed for 126 yards to set a CCU single-season record and a trio of quarterbacks – Michael Church, Dalton Demos and Brian Kass – all led the team to scores as the #3/6 Chanticleers pulled away for a 66-27 victory Saturday night at Brooks Stadium.
Coastal, which has now scored 50-plus points a Big South record five times in a season, improves to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big South while VMI falls to 1-7, 0-3.
Taliaferro, with 986 yards entering the game, now has 1,112 yards this season, breaking the CCU single-season mark of 1,107 Patrick Hall set in 2004. The leading scorer in the NCAA FCS and the Walter Payton Award candidate, Taliaferro scored once and now has 18 rushing touchdowns this season – three shy of the Big South season record, and 19 total touchdowns, four shy of the league's season mark.
Another Coastal record fell in the third quarter as Devin Brown returned a kickoff 95 yards, marking the longest scoring play in CCU history.
As for the Coastal quarterback triumvirate, Church threw three touchdowns, Kass ran for one and Demos threw one. Overall Church, who had not attempted a pass in this his sophomore season, completed his first seven passes and went 12-of-15 on the day for 164 yards. Demos was 3-of-4 with a touchdown pass, while rushing for 36 yards. Kass completed 1-of-2 passes but rushed for 49 yards and scored a 24-yard rushing TD.
On defense, Coastal allowed 282 yards and 24 first half points, but only surrendered three points and 127 yards in the second half, continuing a trend of second-half dominance. This season, Coastal has only allowed nine second-half touchdowns and three field goals.
The Chanticleers took the opening kickoff and drove 78 yards in 11 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Church was 4-of-4 on the drive for 48 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown to Niccolo Mastromatteo.
The Keydets answered right back with 14-play drive covering 79 yards and 7:05 on the clock. A.J. Augustine executed a nice play-action pass to tight end Mario Thompson for a three-yard score to knot the game at 7-7.
Coastal needed just 1:49 to regain the lead. Taliaferro carried the bulk of the load, accounting for 50 of the 74 yards. He caught a 20-yard pass then ran for an 11-yard score to put the Chants up 14-7.
VMI was able to quickly get back into scoring range, but ultimately had to settle for a 32-yard Dylan Christopher field goal to make the score 14-10.
The Chants utilized two-quarterbacks to score in just 1:39. Church hit Matt Hazel for 18 yards on a third down and Taliaferro followed with an 11-yard run. From there, Brian Kass took over, gaining 12 yards then scoring from 24 yards out to give CCU a 20-10 lead.
Undaunted, VMI answered right back with an 82-yard scoring drive, capped by a 16-yard Derrick Ziglar rushing score to trim the Keydet deficit to three, 20-17.
On the ensuing CCU drive, despite a 45-yard run by Taliaferro, the Chants were forced to kick a field goal and Alex Catron split the uprights from 43 yards out to give Coastal a 23-17 lead. The CCU defense then forced a punt and needed just four plays to score for a 30-17 lead. Hazel out-dueled two Keydet defenders to haul in a Church pass for a 32-yard touchdown.
However, with 1:21 left before the break, Augustine converted a key 3rd-and-14 with a 21-yard completion then hit Sam Patterson for a 28-yard touchdown to make the score 30-24 at the break.
To open the second half, Richie Sampson recorded his first career interception, picking off Augustine and returning the ball 18 yards and CCU got an additional 15 yard thanks to a penalty to set up shop on the VMI 19. Taliaferro gained seven yards tie the CCU single-season rushing record, giving him 1,107 for the season tying Patrick Hall's mark from 2004. On the next play, Church found Hazel for a 12-yards score then the two reconnected on the two-point try to make the score 38-24.
The Keydets came with a 29-yard Christopher field goal for a 38-27 CCU lead. During the drive, Augustine hit Patterson for a 40-yards completion to get the Keydets
On the ensuing kickoff, Coastal's Brown fielded the ball on his own five and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown, marking the longest scoring play in school history and seventh-longest kick return in Big South history.
The CCU defense then forced a punt and one play later, De'Angelo Henderson raced untouched for a 49-yard score and a 52-27 lead. Also, CCU has now had 13, one-play drives in its history – five versus VMI, and the nine-second time frame was the sixth-shortest in school history.