ORLANDO, Fla. (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina is unbeaten no more.
A blocked field goal kept the No. 9 Chanticleers just shy of perfection as they fell to No. 23 Liberty, 37-34, in overtime at the Cure Bowl Saturday. The defeat ends Coastal’s season at 11-1, just shy of being the first-ever Sun Belt Conference team to finish a season undefeated.
Coastal was able to force overtime when the game was tied at 34 late in the fourth quarter, when Flames’ running back Joshua Mack fumbled the ball a play after forcing himself down with less than a minute left in regulation. Alex Spillum picked up the ball and the Coastal offense ran down the clock to send the game to the extra period.
The Flames got the ball first in OT but were forced to settle for a field goal to take the lead. After three-straight incompletions from Grayson McCall on the Chants’ possession, Massimo Biscardi’s 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked and effectively put a stamp on Liberty’s bowl win.
CLIMBING BACK: Coastal had to climb out of an early hole before keeping pace with the Flames down the stretch. Flames quarterback Malik Willis ran in two scores on drives of 60-plus yards. He then threw an interception to Coastal’s Braden Matts early in the second quarter to set up a drive ending with a field goal by Biscardi.
After forcing a three-and-out, McCall connected with Isaiah Likely on a 25-yard strike near to make it a four-point game toward the end of the second quarter.
Liberty then marched down the field as Alex Barbir hit a 37-yard field goal, but Coastal was able to respond as time ticked away with a kick of their own from Biscardi, making it 17-13 at the half.
Coastal then had to work late in the fourth quarter to tie things up after being down eight. McCall led a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive with five minutes left that ended with him powering in a two-point conversion to knot the game up.
BIG STATS: It was all about the offenses in this bowl game, as both combined for over 900 yards on the night. For Liberty, Wilson’s ability to run the ball and make plays out of the pocket proved to be a big challenge for Coastal’s defense. The Auburn transfer rushed for an additional two scores in the second half, totaling 137 yards on the ground. He also threw for 220 yards, despite a pair of picks.
For Coastal, a team that typically runs the ball well actually found much success through the air. McCall threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns, two of which going to Greg Latushko. Likely caught the other and finished his night with 84 yards on five catches.
It turned on McCall’s favorite target was Jaivon Heiligh, who caught a Cure Bowl and school record 13 passes for 178 yards in his 15 targets. McCall also rushed for a team-leading 96 yards and an additional touchdown.
WHAT’S NEXT?: The Chants will look to defend their share of the Sun Belt Conference title next season. Coastal already have non-conference home games with Kansas, UMass and The Citadel along with a road trip to Buffalo scheduled for next season.