CONWAY, S.C. – Coastal Carolina held the ball on offense for over 41 minutes of the contest and totaled 539 yards of total offense on its way to a 52-23 home win over Arkansas State in the two teams' Sun Belt Conference opener on Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium.
With the win, Coastal improves to 3-0 on the year and 1-0 in Sun Belt play, while Arkansas State falls to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in league play on the season.
The 52 points are the most points scored by the Chants in a Sun Belt Conference game in the program’s history.
Coastal dominated the time of possession, as the Chants' offense had the ball for 41:21 compared to Arkansas State at 18:39.
The Chants overcame three turnovers — an interception and two fumbles — by holding the ball for over 13 minutes in the second quarter and almost a full 11 minutes in the third quarter.
The defense also did its part in picking up the offense, as the Chants forced two turnovers and also recovered what was a short, sky-high, kickoff to help eliminate A-State’s offense from getting on track.
Coastal totaled 539 yards of total offense on 217 yards rushing and 322 yards passing.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Grayson McCall connected on 20-of-29 pass attempts for 322 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The 20 completions, four touchdown passes, and 322 passing yards were all career-highs for the young Chant quarterback who was making the third start of his career.
On the ground, CJ Marable led the way with 63 yards and a score on 15 carries while also eclipsing the 3,000 career rushing yards mark in the process. Fellow running backs Shermari Jones (9 carries, 38 yards, TD) and Braydon Bennett (2 carries, 34 yards, TD) each had a touchdown run, while both Reese White (5 carries, 23 yards) and Baden Pinson (3 carries, 15 yards) each had multiple carries for the game.
Junior wideout Jaivon Heiligh led the Coastal receivers with a season-high seven catches for a season-high 93 yards and a touchdown, while Marable (4 receptions, 25 yards, TD), Kameron Brown (3 receptions, 53 yards, TD), and Isaiah Likely (1 reception, 72 yards, TD) all had one touchdown catch in the win.
For Arkansas State offensively, the Red Wolves' combination of Layne Hatcher (12-for-23, 184 yards, TD, INT) and Logan Bonner (16-for-21, 165 yards, 2 TD) combined to pass for 349 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
A total of 10 different receivers had at least one catch for the Red Wolves for the game highlighted by Brandon Bowling’s game-high seven catches and 115 yards and two touchdowns.
The CCU defense was able to ground the ground game for the Red Wolves, as A-State rushed for just 36 yards for the game and did not record a rush longer than nine yards for the contest.
Coastal’s defense totaled 3.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles-for-loss for the game, as Enock Makonzo led the way with seven tackles and 0.5 tackles-for-loss. Linebackers Teddy Gallagher (6 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 QB hurry) and Silas Kelly (5 tackles) finished with a combined 11 stops, while Tarron Jackson (4 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 1 QB hurry) and Jeffrey Gunter (3 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle-for-loss, 2 QB hurries) were problems off the edge with a combined 3.0 sacks.
After the two defenses flexed their muscles over the first two series of the game, the Red Wolves broke through first by going over the top of the Coastal defense on back-to-back plays with the second one a 33-yard touchdown pass and catch from Bonner to Dahu Green in the corner of the end zone. The five-play, 82-yard scoring drive was capped off by a Blake Grupe PAT to put the visitors in front 7-0 with 5:38 to go in the first quarter.
Trailing for the first time all season long, the Chants quickly answered with a 72-yard pass and catch from McCall to Likely on the very first play of the offensive drive to tie the game up at 7-7 on a Massimo Biscardi extra point.
Following a missed field goal by A-State and a fumble by the CCU offense, the first turnover of the season for the Chants, the Red Wolves retook the lead at 14-7 on a three-play, 27-yard drive that took just 52 seconds as Bonner found an open Bowling across the middle of the field for the 21-yard touchdown pass.
The Chants again answered the Red Wolves' score with a score of their own on the next offensive drive, as the offense nickeled and dimed its way down the field until a 12-yard rush off a pitch from McCall to Marable found pay dirt to cap at 10-play, 75-yard drive scoring drive and retie the game up at 14-14 with 12:04 remaining in the second quarter.
On the subsequent kickoff, Biscardi dropped in a short, pooch kick that was recovered by a diving Charles Steele at the Arkansas State 31-yard line to give the ball right back to the offense with great field position.
However, the A-state defense would keep the Chants out of the end zone and force a 42-yard field goal attempt by Biscardi which sailed through the uprights to give the home team its first lead of the game at 17-14 with 10:28 to go before the halftime break.
On the Chants' next offensive series, head coach Jamey Chadwell and the offense took control of the clock as the home team held on to the ball for the next 8:38 of the game.
The drive carried on with six first drives and saw 12 rush attempts and six pass plays before a three-yard touchdown catch by Marable on a third-and-goal capped the drive at 18-plays, 94 yards, and 8:38 off the clock to put Coastal in front by 10 at 24-14 with less than a minute to go in the opening half.
The 18-play drive was the most plays on a single scoring drive in CCU history, while the 8:38 off the game clock was the longest scoring drive in regards to game time in Coastal history.
The game flow continued in the second half, as the Chants took the second-half kickoff and the next 7:57 minutes off the game clock before McCall through a back-shoulder throw to Brown in the end zone from three yards out to add to Coastal’s lead at 31-14 with 6:57 to go in the third quarter.
The two teams then traded turnovers, a fumble by A-State and an interception from Coastal, before the “Black Swarm” defense forced a turnover on downs to give the ball back to the offense with 3:07 to go in the quarter.
However, the Chants then coughed up the ball for the third time of the game on its next offensive series, as a fumble gave the ball right back to the Red Wolves with 1:37 to go before the start of the fourth quarter.
The Coastal defense was able to keep the Red Wolves out of the end zone, as Grupe made good on a 42-yard field goal with 14:05 remaining in the contest to cut the CCU lead to 14 at 31-17.
Coastal’s offense continued to roll in the fourth quarter, as McCall connected with Heiligh for a six-yard touchdown pass on the Chants' first series of the final period and then added a Jones' 15-yard touchdown scamper on its next drive to push the lead out to 45-17 with just over six minutes remaining.
The two teams closed the game out with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Hatcher to Bowling for Arkansas State and a 35-yard touchdown run by way of Braydon Bennett for Coastal to put the final score at 52-23.
Coastal (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) will continue Sun Belt play next week at Louisiana (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt). Originally scheduled for Oct. 17, the game was moved up to Oct. 10 and will be televised live on ESPN2 at Noon ET/11 a.m. CT.