GREENVILLE, S.C.– Furman and Coastal Carolina have met in two fantastic football games over the past couple of seasons, with Furman coming up on the short end each time. The Paladins dropped a thrilling 47-45, triple overtime decision to the Chanticleers last season in Greenville. In Bruce Fowler’s first game as head coach in 2011, the Paladins were 30-23 losers in Conway.
Furman and Coastal Carolina meet on the gridiron for the fifth time ever this fall. Coastal Carolina leads the overall series, which began in 2006, 3-1. The Paladins are winless in Conway, also dropping the first ever meeting between the two, 29-27 loss to Tyler Thigpen and a talented Coastal Carolina offense. In that particular meeting, Furman entered ranked third in the nation. That win remains one of the biggest wins in Coastal Carolina football history.
The Chanticleers were under the direction of Joe Moglia last season, the second head coach in the history of Coastal Carolina football. CCU just started its program back in 2003. He led the Chanticleers to a Big South title and a 8-5 record on the season.
The more amazing story is that Moglia was a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company and was a consultant for the Nebraska football program previously. His only prior head coaching experience was in the United Football League, at the helm of the Omaha Nighthawks. Safe to say Moglia probably came to the FCS coaching ranks with the most diversified portfolio.
In the thrilling meeting between the two last season, it was an offensive showcase and it was a game that would really take off in the fourth quarter. With Coastal Carolina seemingly in control of the game and holding a 22-12 lead with just 4:12 remaining in the game, however, as many Paladin fans will recall, this is where the Reese Hannon story begins and many feel, where the next star under center was born for the Paladins.
Hannon, a true freshman out of nearby Greer High School, came into the contest late in the second quarter for Dakota Derrick, who had left with an injury, and Hannon nearly wrote a storybook finish for the Paladins.
Hannon, who passed for 255 yards despite a rain-soaked field, led Furman to scores on its final six possessions of the game, including 17 points in the final 4:12 of the game to give Furman a 25-22 lead on a 22-yard strike to Ryan Culbreath with 40 seconds left.
Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary was simply sensational for the Chanticleers, connecting on 20-of-27 passes for 292 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Paladins held a 439-404 advantage in total offense, but failed to convert the required two-point attempt in the third overtime, which would have sent the game to a fourth overtime. Hannon’s pass intended for Colin Anderson in the back of the end zone fell incomplete.
COASTAL CAROLINA TRADITION:
Coastal Carolina’s football program has only been around a decade, but has established quite an extensive legacy in that time with five Big South Conference titles and three playoff appearances, including making last year’s. The Chanticleers claimed their first playoff win in school history in 2012, when they defeated Bethune-Cookman 26-14 in the opening round.
The Chanticleers started strong under the direction of head coach David Bennett, who assumed the reins of the program in 2003. He helped the Chanticleers to a winning record, 6-5, in his first season.
The 2004 season saw the Chanticleers post a 10-1 record, which still ranks as the best mark in school history. The lone loss of the 2004 season came against Newberry, a Division II national powerhouse.
However, the Chanticleers went unbeaten against Big South competition in the 2004 season, knocking off VMI (21-14), Liberty (33-6), Gardner-Webb (33-19) and Charleston Southern (56-28).
Tyler Thigpen led CCU that season and established himself as the best player in the program’s very short history. He proved to be both a threat throwing the football as well as running it from under center.
Thigpen went on the finish out his four-year career passing for 6,598 yards to go along with 1,638via the rush. He also passed threw 53 touchdown passes during his tenure, and connected on 486 pass attempts.
Thigpen finished out his Coastal Carolina career in 2006 as the first player drafted to the NFL from Coastal Carolina. He was a seventh-round draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings, and currently is a backup signal caller in the Buffalo Bills organization.
The 2005 season saw the Chanticleers finish 9-2 with a 3-1 conference slate. CCU followed that up with a milestone 2006 season, when the teal-and-black went 9-3, won the Big South, and garnered an at-large invitation to the FCS Playoffs.
The emergence of the combination of Thigpen and wide receiver Jerome Simpson became of that 2006 season. Simpson ended up enjoying an outstanding career just as Thigpen had. Simpson, who graduated following the 2007 season, made one highlight reel catch after another to set the bar for future Chanticleer receivers.
For his career, Simpson hauled in 161 passes for 2,270 yards and 44 touchdown receptions. He parlayed his CCU experience into an impressive NFL career. He was a second round choice of the Cincinnati Bengals, and currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
That 2006 season was a special one for Thigpen, Simpson and company, as the high-octane offense scored one of the biggest wins in school history in early October with the aforementioned defeat of Furman, the program’s first over a top 5 opponent.
The Chanticleers faced Appalachian State for the second time in as many seasons in Boone, N.C. and despite a valiant offensive effort against the Mountaineers, Armanti Edwards and the eventual two-time national champs would be too much for Coastal Carolina in the program’s first-ever FCS playoff game, 45-28.
The 2006 season saw the Chanticleers face five Southern Conference foes, including the playoff loss to the Mountaineers. CCU went 2-3 against the SoCon, with wins over No. 3 Furman (29-27) and Wofford (41-38), and losses Elon (23-20) and No. 24 Georgia Southern (38-21).
The Chanticleers struggled over the next three seasons, and did not return to the postseason until the 2010 season in what would become one of the more remarkable runs in school history. The Chanticleers dropped four of their first five games of the season, but went 5-1 down the stretch. The Chanticleers tied for the Big South regular season title, and the automatic bid went to CCU by virtue of its 70-3 win over Charleston Southern. Points scored was used as the tiebreaker between Coastal Carolina and Liberty.
The Chanticleers dropped a heartbreaker in the opening round of the postseason, a 17-10 loss in Conway to Missouri Valley Conference member Western Illinois to finishthe campaign 6-6 record 5-1 in conference play for the program’s fourth league crown.
After a 7-4 mark in 2011 and a second place finish in the Big South standings, the Chanticleers underwent a coaching change following the season. David Bennett stepped down after nine years at the helm, giving way to Moglia.
In Moglia’s first season, the Chanticleers established another program milestone.
Coastal Carolina finished the regular season with a second straight 7-4 record, which included a 5-1 league ledger, helping the Chanticleers qualify for the postseason as the automatic bid qualifier out of the Big South.
Led by one of the more prolific quarterbacks in the nation, Aramis Hillary, the Chanticleers boasted the nation’s 18th-best total offense (437.7 YPG), and individually it was quite a season for Hillary. He finished the season with 2,665 yards passings, with 21 touchdowns to only eight interceptions.
After the program’s first playoff win, CCU lost a shootout on the road in the second round, 63-35 at Old Dominion. Moglia’s first season ended finish 8-5 overall, and 5-1 in conference play to win a fifth Big South crown.
Coastal Carolina 2013 Opponent Sketch:
Coastal Carolina enters the 2013 season looking to build off that opening round playoff win of a year ago, which was the first in program history. The Chanticleers claimed their fifth conference crown and will be looking for more under second-year head coach Joe Moglia in 2013.
The Chanticleers welcome back 14 starters (8-offense, 6-defense) for the upcoming campaign, however, the Chanticleers must replace a player, in Aramis Hillary, who has finished out his eligibility as a collegiate quarterback.
All Hillary did was have one of the best seasons in the short history of the Coastal Carolina football program, as he finished the season by completing 226-of-335 passes for 2,665 yards, with 21 TDs and eight INTs, while also rushing for 567 yards and four scores, which ranked second on the team in rushing last season.
Expected to take over at quarterback this fall will be Alex Ross (26-of-48 passing, 427 yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT), who saw action in seven games last season for the Chanticleers, logging one start. Ross will be fighting with Michael Church for that starting job in the spring.
The player that will grab most of the national attention heading into the 2013 season is wideout Matt Hazel (61 rec, 799 yds, 8 TDs, 13.1 YPR). Hazel is an outstanding option at wide receiver for the Chanticleers, and he brings speed as well as being extremely cerebral to the Coastal Carolina receiving corps. Hazel is athletic and fast, but is reliable enough to act as a possession-type receiver. Hazel comes into his senior season as an All-America candidate, and the pressure will be on the signal-caller to get Hazel the football in that offense. He was a First-Team All Big South selection in 2012.
Also returning as an excellent compliment to Hazel in that wide receiving corps is DeMario Bennett (43 rec, 599 yds, 7 TDs, 13.9 YPR), who had a strong season for the Chanticleers last season after transferring in from the University of South Carolina. Bennett and Hazel were especially impressive in the win at Furman last season. Hazel hauled in seven passes for 128 yards and a TD in the Coastal win, while Bennett caught five passes for 87 yards and a TD in the triple-overtime win.
The Chanticleers will have to replace their leading rusher from a year ago, Jeremy Height. He carried for 921 yards and 10 touchdowns. Looking to to lead the ground game for the Chanticleers this season is Lorenzo Taliaferro (80 rush att, 357 yds, 5 touchdowns, 4.5 YPC), a powerful back more akin to a fullback, at 6-2, 230-lbs. He has an excellent combination of speed and power, and he is enough of a running threat to keep opposing defenses honest, which is all he has to do in this offense, as it’s not an offense that is geared to ask 1,000-yard production out of the lead back.
Coastal Carolina returns four of five starters along its offensive line, and this unit should be the strength of the offense heading into the 2013 season. The one loss along the offensive front, center Pat Williams, is a significant one. He was an All-America and First Team All-Big South selection a year ago. Anchoring the four returning starters along the front five this fall is left tackle Chad Hamilton, who was a Second Team All-Big South pick last season, and he enters the campaign having started 16 out of 23 career games he has played in.
Defensively, the Chanticleers have seven players back with starting experience from a unit that ranked fifth out of seven team in the Big South in total defense (424.0 YPG) last fall.
The Chanticleers also finished fourth in the Big South in scoring defense (28.4 PPG), third in rushing defense (183.0 YPG) and sixth in pass defense (241.0 YPG) last season.
The area decimated by graduation was the defensive line, with three of four starters gone off the defensive line, with the lone returnee being junior defensive tackle Jesse Salley (38 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack).
Players like Marcus Crowder (17 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), Roderick Holder (11 tackles, 1.0 TFL) and Arthur Kelley (13 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks).
The linebacking corps should be among the best in the Big South this fall, returning junior Quinn Backus (139 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs, 2 FRs, 3 FFs), is the leader of that unit and of the entire defense this fall.
Backus was simply all over the field for the Chanticleers last season and was a playmaker in the middle of that 4-2-5 defense, and his 139 stops led the club and the Big South last season. Backus is a hard hitter, as evidenced by his three caused fumbles last season. He will team with starter Mike McClure (92 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU) in the teeth of that Coastal Carolina defense. All Backus did last year was garner All-America accolades and was the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Year.
The secondary welcomes the return of four of starters in the five in the secondary for the Chanticleers for the 2013 season, with the lone loss to graduation being Dontavais Johnson at one of the cornerback positions, and he will likely be replaced by Datarius Allen, who was a redshirt freshman last season. Ladarius Hawthorne (65 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 INTs, 6 PBUs, 1 FF) has All-Big South potential at the other cornerback position, and he will be the leader of this secondary in 2013.
At safety, Johnnie Houston (53 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 INTs) highlights the returnees for the Chanticleers’ trio and he returns as the starter at strong safety this fall, and he will team with Pernell Williams (59 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 3 FFs), who will play the ‘WHIP’ safety position, while Tyler McCarthy (51 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 4 PBUs) returns at free safety.
This will be another tough test for the Paladins in the second game of the season, and another road test. The fact that Coastal Carolina doesn’t have a starter returning at QB probably keeps them from being a Big South title favorite entering the season, but certainly the Chanticleers will be in the mix for their sixth conference crown.
It’s a crucial non-conference game for the Paladins, and Furman must have the first two on the road against Gardner-Webb and Coastal Carolina if it hopes to have any aspirations of making its first playoff appearance since 2006.