JONESBORO, Ark. – Coastal Carolina took a six-point lead with 2:31 to go in the game only to see the Arkansas State Red Wolves score a late touchdown with 32 seconds left on the game clock to edge the Chanticleers for the 28-27 Sun Belt Conference win on Saturday evening at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark.
Coastal took its first lead of the game since the first half at 27-21 on a CJ Marable one-yard touchdown run and a Bryce Carpenter two-point conversion run with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter.
However, the Red Wolves drove 76 yards on 11 plays in just 1:53 for the game-winning drive, tying the score at 27-27 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Layne Hatcher to Kirk Merritt and taking the lead on a PAT by kicker Blake Grupe.
With the one-point loss to the Red Wolves, five of the Chanticleers’ 10 games this season have been decided by one score (eight points or less).
The loss drops CCU to 4-6 on the season and 0-3 all-time to Arkansas State, while with the win the Red Wolves became bowl eligible at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
The Chanticleers totaled 412 yards of total offense compared to 376 by the Red Wolves and nearly doubled Arkansas State in total plays with 90 to the Red Wolves’ 57.
The CCU offense tallied 23 first downs, rushed for 133 yards, passed for 179 yards and held the ball for a total of 41:13 in time of possession. The Chants were also 5-of-9 on fourth-down attempts but were only 5-of-19 on third-down conversions.
A-State was flagged for 14 penalties for 116 yards compared to the Chants’ seven penalties for 50 yards.
The Red Wolves also turned the ball over five times on three fumbles and two interceptions compared to the Chants three turnovers (2 INT, 1 fumble), as the two teams combined for 31 points off turnovers for the game.
Marable led the offensive attack with 142 yards and a score on 28 carries, while Carpenter rushed for 39 yards on 14 attempts and Jacqez Hairston added a score on the ground late in the second half.
Sophomore quarterback Fred Payton was 11-for-22 for 149 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, while Carpenter went 6-for-10 for 30 yards. His streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception was snapped at 121 with an INT in the third quarter.
On the outside, redshirt senior Ky’Jon Tyler led the way with four catches for 74 yards, while both Jaivon Heiligh (36 yards) and Marable (6 yards) also hauled in four catches each on the night.
For the Red Wolves offensively, Hatcher was 24-for-35 for 305 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, as he connected with seven different receivers led by Omar Bayless (7 rec., 102 yards, TD) and Merritt (7 rec., 70 yards, 2 TDs) with seven catches each.
The depleted Coastal defense forced a season-high five turnovers and held the Red Wolves to just 71 rushing yards for the game, yet struggled against the passing attack which threw for 305 yards on the night.
Safety Kameron Burton came off the bench to lead the Chants with eight tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery, while cornerback Derick Bush had an interception and four stops on the night. Senior linebacker Laqavious Paul had seven tackles in the loss.
Arkansas State got the scoring going with a little help from the Chanticleers’ offense, as a CCU fumble on their own seven-yard line set up a seven-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the Red Wolves’ Hatcher to Merritt to put the home team in front 7-0 with 4:07 to go in the first quarter.
After turning the ball over on downs on their opening drive, following four first downs and driving 57 yards to the ASU 13-yard line, and then fumbling inside their own 10-yard line on the second drive, the Coastal offense answered A-State’s score with another 57-yard drive, this time capped off by a 25-yard field goal from Massimo Biscardi to cut the Red Wolves’ lead to four at 7-3 with 1:21 to go in the first quarter.
The defense would help set up the next CCU score, as linebacker Cincir Evans blasted A-State’s Jamal Jones on a rush around the right end to knock the football loose where fellow teammate Brayden Matts fell on the ball at the ASU 38-yard line for the fumble recovery.
The Chants struggled to get any offense going on the subsequent series, yet moved the ball up 10 yards to the ASU 28-yard line for a 45-yard field goal from Biscardi to put the visitors in white and teal within one at 7-6 with 9:07 left to play in the second quarter.
Following another defensive stop by the “Black Swarm”, the Chants’ offense took over again deep in their own territory, starting on their own 10-yard line.
The key play of the drive was on a fourth-and-1 on the CCU 19-yard line, as Baden Pinson broke through the right side of the line for a four-yard gain and a first down, the first of three on the drive.
CCU went to the air later in the drive and it paid off, as Payton hit Tyler down the right sideline for 34 yards in a first down before then connecting with Jai Williams over the top of the A-State defense for a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Chants their first lead of the game at 13-7 with 3:59 to go in the opening half.
Neither team would find the end zone over the final minutes of the half as Coastal took a 13-7 lead into the halftime break.
It would be the defenses that would take center stage in the start of the second half, as the two teams traded interceptions with Burton picking off a pass for the Chants on A-State’s first drive and Caleb Boomer picking off a Carpenter throw on CCU’s drive to start the third quarter.
However, A-State’s Boomer returned his interception 66 yards for a touchdown to put the Red Wolves’ in front at 14-13 with 8:43 to go in the third quarter.
Coastal looked to retake the lead on its ensuing offensive drive as Payton led the Chants down to the Arkansas State 38-yard line, rushing 10 yards on a third-and-11 to set up a fourth-and-1. However, the Red Wolves stuffed the CCU run attempt and turned the Chants over on downs for the second time in the game.
With the momentum clearly on the Red Wolves’ side, the home team drove 60 yards on just eight plays, highlighted by four pass completions by Hatcher and an 11-yard rush from Marcel Murray before a seven-yard pass to Bayless on third-and-goal extended the Red Wolves’ lead to eight at 21-13 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.
Another Coastal takeaway on a Bush interception with 8:45 left in the fourth quarter, set up the offense once again, giving them the ball on the A-State 16-yard line.
A roughing the passer call on the Red Wolves’ defense on a fourth-and-seven attempt kept the CCU drive alive before Marable did the rest with a six-yard rush to the one followed by a one-yard plunge up the middle for a score.
The two-point conversion would be no good to keep the score at 21-19 in favor of Arkansas State with 5:49 to play.
Needing to get the ball back quickly, the Chants special teams did just that as Greg Latushko forced a fumble on the kickoff return which was pounced on by Michael Makins at the A-State 29-yard line.
The Chants went to the ground game as Marable, Carpenter, and Hairston combined to rush six times for 29 yards with Hairston’s nine-yard scamper up the middle finding the end zone and pushing the visitors in front for the first since the halftime break at 25-21.
On the following two-point conversion, Carpenter rushed right up the middle on a quarterback draw to give the Chants a six-point lead at 27-21 with 2:31 left in regulation.
Too much time was left on the clock, however, as Hatcher led the Red Wolves down the field, going 76-yards on 11 plays in just 1:53 to tie the game up at 27-27 on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Merritt.
The extra-point was good to put the home team back in front by one at 28-27 with 32 seconds left to go in the game.