Troy Can’t Upset No. 24 Coastal Carolina
Troy’s Upset Bid Falls Short at No. 24 Coastal Carolina
As usual, Troy and Coastal Carolina played into the final minute with the outcome in doubt. As has been the case for the past three years, the No. 24 Chanticleers prevailed 35-28 Thursday night on ESPN2. Coastal Carolina held a precarious late lead behind an ailing but productive quarterback Grayson McCall and a quick-strike offense that scored three touchdowns on plays covering 50 yards or longer. But an audacious fake punt on fourth-and-4 from its own 31-yard allowed the Chanticleers to hold off Troy, a 17-point underdog.
“The explosive plays were the difference,” Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said. “They did a great job of making some plays when they had opportunities down the field. College football these days is about explosive plays. You’ve got to give them credit for that. But even with all that, we had plenty of opportunities. We didn’t finish some drives, especially in the first half, and that cost us.”
The victory gave Coastal Carolina (7-1, 3-1 Sun Belt) first place in the tight Sun Belt East division. Troy fell to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the division. The loss snapped the Trojans’ two-game winning streak. The Trojans came off the ropes, if not the mat, several times in the game that was played in intermittent driving rain and gusting wind.
The Chanticleers led 21-14 and extended that lead with a 14-play, 78-yard drive that took 8:24 off the clock to open the second half. Troy answered with a clutch drive of its own. Kimani Vidal, who finished the game with 142 yards rushing on 22 carries, was the star on that march. He had a 24-yard gain early in the drive, added a 19-yarder on third-and-9, and finished it on the next play with a 5-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 28-21 with 2:26 left in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Chants restored their 14-point lead with a 54-yard touchdown run by Shermari Jones that came with 11:23 left in the game. That play ended a six-play, 80-yard drive. Troy was forced to punt on its next possession, but that punt opened the door for a comeback. Luke Magliozzi, with some wind help, got off a 65-yard punt that pinned Coastal to its 1-yard line.
“That punt was a big play that gave us a chance,” Lindsey said. The Chanticleers punted it away and the Trojans got the ball back with 7:24 remaining at the CC 41.
Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson threw a nice slant pass on fourth-and-7 to Deshon Stoudemire for nine yards and a first down. He went back to Stoudemire for 10 and another first down two plays later. Watson capped the drive with an 18-yard touchdown strike to Tez Johnson with 4:52 remaining that made it 35-28. Troy again appeared to be in good position to get the ball back. But facing a fourth-and-4 from his own 31, Coastal Carolina’s C.J. Brewer, one of the blocking backs for the punter, took a direct snap, ran around left end, broke a Troy tackle near the line of scrimmage and gained 12 yards to the 43.
“It was a great call on their part, faking the punt in that instance,” Lindsey said. “We had a guy there to make the play, but he didn’t make it. Takes some guts to make that call there, but give them credit; they did. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the tackle and they converted.”
Troy did eventually force a punt and got the ball back, but with only 25 seconds remaining and at its 24-yard line. Watson was sacked and fumbled on first down, and Coastal’s Jeffrey Gunter recovered, and the home team ran out the clock in its 35-28 victory. Coastal Carolina’s poise was tested early. Troy struck first after Tez Johnson took a pop pass sweep around left end for 64 yards to the 15 on the Trojans’ first play of their second possession. Three plays later, quarterback Gunnar Watson hit tight end Deyunkrea Lewis for 11 yards and a touchdown. Lewis was wide open on the left sideline for the TD strike. Brooks Buce added the extra point that gave the Trojans a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. The Chanticleers, who had just four three-and-out possessions all season, went three-and-out on their first two Thursday night. Troy was in position to go up two scores. B.J. Smith had a 3-yard run on third-and-1 and Kimani Vidal added a 15-yard carry on third-and-10. But with Troy at second-and-9 on the Coastal 19, a holding penalty, two throw-aways by Watson and a delay of game penalty took them out of field goal range.
Coastal’s third-ranked offense finally got rolling. Quarterback Grayson McCall hit Jaivon Heiligh for 22 yards on a third-and-12. Later in the drive, running back Reese White picked up 24 yards, followed by a McCall-to-Xavier Gravette pass for 23 yards and a first down at the Troy 4. Three plays later, McCall scored on a keeper from the 2. Massimo Biscardi tied it with the extra point at 7-all. The Chanticleers pushed Troy to the brink with several game-breaking chunk plays. Heiligh got behind the Troy secondary and McCall hit him with a 66-yard touchdown pass that beat Troy cornerback Taiyon Palmer. Another Troy drive reached Coastal territory, but a sack by Jeffrey Gunter forced the Trojans to punt. Then Braydon Bennett ran a wheel route up the right sideline and caught a 71-yard touchdown pass from McCall that made it 21-7 with 7:57 left in the first half. Troy didn’t fold. In fact, it found a big play of its own. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the Coastal 42, slot receiver Jabre Barber caught a slant pass and raced to the end zone for the touchdown pass from Watson. The Trojans then forced a Coastal punt and Troy took over on the Chanticleers’ 40, but a false start penalty hurt the drive and forced another kick. Late in half, Troy’s T.J. Harris picked off McCall.
Coastal Carolina led 21-14 at halftime.
The Chanticleers gained 510 yards of offense – 294 passing and 216 rushing – for the game. Troy put up 389 yards – 225 in the air. They were 10 for 17 on third down. McCall finished 14 of 26 passing for 294 yards, two TDs and an interception by Troy’s Reddy Steward. Watson finished 17 of 30 passing for 225 yards and three touchdowns. The Trojans were 5 for 15 on third down. Tez Johnson finished with four catches for 88 yards for Troy. Jaivon Heiligh had five catches for 116 yards.