Coastal overloads App State 34-23

Senior linebacker Silas Kelly and senior defensive tackle CJ Brewer take down Appalachian State running back Cameron Peoples in the first half of Coastal's 34-23 win over the Mountaineers on Saturday, Nov. 21. The win was the first victory for Coastal over the Mountaineers and now puts them at 8-0 on the year and in the drivers seat to clinch the East Division in the Sun Belt. Photo by Ian Livingston Brooking.

After a frenzied 24 hours, Coastal Carolina has its sights set on Saturday's matchup against No. 8 BYU.

"It's obviously unique, but in this year, 2020, you've got to be prepared for things like this," Coastal coach Jamey Chadwell said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The change of opponent came after Liberty University announced Thursday morning that it was halting all team-related activities due to an increased number of COVID-19 cases within the football program. A day earlier, Liberty's starting quarterback Malik Willis had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report from A Sea of Red.

While it was widely reported Wednesday night that BYU and Coastal had come to an agreement, the university remained adamant that the first matchup in four years between Coastal and Liberty was still on.

"Our focus and intention remain on preparing and playing Liberty University on Saturday and showcasing our University and campus to the college football world via ESPN College GameDay," the university said in a statement Wednesday night. "There are no changes or adjustments to that schedule and both schools are still completing weekly COVID-19 testing protocols that would impact any game decision."

Then came Thursday morning's news.

"In this fluid environment, it’s crucial to explore contingencies and this opportunity was presented," the university said Thursday morning. "In conjunction with the Sun Belt Conference and ESPN, we have been able to schedule another top 25 matchup this week with BYU coming to Conway and Brooks Stadium for a game this Saturday."

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Coastal Carolina Athletics Director Matt Hogue explained how the opportunity with BYU matchup came to be.

"The Liberty discussions began back on Wednesday morning as they notified us about their situation. At that time, there was still testing going on in the program," Hogue said. "Once you're in that situation this year, we're all kind of playing by a different book."

Hogue said that because there was "a lot invested in this weekend," referencing ESPN's College GameDay show being on campus, the university began "exploring what opportunities were out there."

"I don't think there was ever any intent to land on a certain place, but we just started having conversations with our conference office about what opportunities may be afforded with other games," Hogue said. "Unfortunately, in the environment we're in, you kind of always have to be working simultaneously on contingencies when these situations occur."

Chadwell said that as the "rumblings" of BYU potentially coming to Coastal began Wednesday night, the team started to gather film to have ready Thursday morning.

"It was around 9, 9:30 when we heard the [Liberty] game was off, so then it was full steam ahead on [BYU]," Chadwell said.

The scheduling change has no effect on "College GameDay" being at Coastal this Saturday. The game is now scheduled to kickoff at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU, though that is subject to change as well.

"When you're in this business, you're in a business that's constantly nimble and flexible, even in a year like this," Hogue said. "This has been a hard year in so many ways, in having to be even more flexible."

Hogue would not specify what other teams the university had contacted, and he insisted the BYU game is a "one-time thing."

"We haven't really discussed anything along those lines," Hogue said. "It was about the opportunity that presented itself in the last 24 hours and we're going to focus on that."

Like Coastal, BYU is undefeated. Both programs hope that a Saturday victory can push them toward obtaining a coveted New Year's Six bowl game. 

The Cougars know how to put points on the board. BYU has scored 40 or more points in eight of nine games this season, including three 50-plus point games in three of their last four.

It's an offense that the Chants really have not season this season, and with shorter than usual time to prepare, it is leaving Chadwell to put some faith in the playbook this Saturday.

"Well, we're doing a lot of praying right now and I know they are too because they're Mormons," he said. "So it's going to be an interesting one there."

Chadwell applauded BYU's balance between an offense that can score a lot and a defense that allows 15 points per game.

While the pressure is certainly on for the Chants this Saturday, Hogue is ready for some fun that night.

"It's going to be a great night at Brooks Stadium," Hogue said. "It's going to be a lot of fun, I think, for Teal Nation."

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