Coach Jamey Chadwell talks to his players as Coastal Carolina University prepares for the season. The first home game is slated for 3 p.m. at Brooks Stadium with Eastern Michigan on Aug. 31. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com


That's how Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell felt when he had to tell his players that Saturday's Sun Belt Championship game at Brooks Stadium was canceled.

"It's not an outcome we wanted to have," Chadwell said in a news conference Friday. 

Late Thursday night, Coastal Carolina Athletics released a statement saying that due to a positive COVID-19 test within its football program, Saturday's matchup with No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette was canceled. The university added that due to contact tracing, "an entire position group would not be available to play due to possible exposure." 

After the decision was made, Chadwell had to do a Zoom call with his team and tell them the news.

"They're devastated," Chadwell said. "It was a tough Zoom to share because they were looking forward to that game."

This is the fourth game of the 2020 season that the Chanticleers had to either cancel or postpone due to COVID-19. It's the first time that a Coastal test was the reason a game had to be canceled or postponed.

"I actually feel fortunate that we made it this far, considering the hotspot our area has been," Chadwell said. "I give credit to our players for trying to do the right thing all year long."

Chadwell said that once there was a positive test, the program quickly moved to check if it was a false positive. He added that he and his coaching staff kept pushing practice back before the unfortunate news came in from the lab.

"We did everything possible to try to play the game," Chadwell said. "When a positive test comes back and you follow the guidelines that are in place and with contact tracing, that's sort of what ends up getting you."

With the cancellation of the Sun Belt championship game, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette will share the 2020 Sun Belt title. However, according to ESPN's Heather Dinich, the College Football Playoff Committee will honor only one Sun Belt Champion: the Chanticleers.

"The Sun Belt’s plan was that its highest-ranked CFP team would be its conference champion, so the selection committee would consider No. 12 Coastal to be the Sun Belt champion," Dinich said in a Tweet Friday afternoon.

There has been some speculation that these two teams could meet up in a bowl game once Coastal is cleared to play. Both Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill and Chadwell do not see that happening.

"It’s not something that I would anticipate happening," Gill said in a teleconference on Friday.

"Part of your bowl experience is being able to be the brand of our conference out against other conferences and compare," Chadwell said. "When we have yearly meetings as conferences, one of the very first things we go over is bowl percentage and how we compare to other conferences in the G5. From that standpoint, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me as to why you would want to play somebody you've already played and beat already."

Chadwell did have a solution when it came to the conversation as to who was the better Group of Five conference: the Sun Belt or the American Athletic Conference.

"I'd love for us to play the winner of Cincinnati-Tulsa and Louisiana can play the loser. I think that'd be huge," Chadwell said. "Their two best teams versus our two best teams. I think that would be a fantastic matchup."

In the meantime, the Chanticleers now patiently wait to see whom they will face in their bowl game while also hoping that Cincinnati, the only other undefeated G5 school, slips up against Tulsa Saturday night.

"Part of the agreement with the CFP is that the highest ranked G5 conference champion [matters], not the highest ranked team," Chadwell said. "We're the conference champions of the Sun Belt. Whether we're ranked higher than [Cincinnati] if they get beat or whether we're not ranked higher than them, we would be the conference champion and they wouldn't. I would anticipate a New Year's Six invite."

Regardless of the result between Tulsa and Cincinnati Saturday night, the Chanticleers resume speaks for itself.

They're currently the only 11-0 team in the country, unless Alabama and Notre Dame win their respective conference championships Saturday. The Chants have the 19th highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 37.5 points per game.

Coastal knows how to put points on the board, scoring in 41 of the 44 quarters they've played in this season. In fact, the last time the Chants didn't score in a single quarter was in the third quarter against South Alabama back on Nov. 7. 

The Chants are led by redshirt freshman Grayson McCall, who was recently named one of 12 finalists for the Manning Award. McCall has one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios at 23 to 2. He ranks 11th in the nation in both passing touchdowns (23) and completion percentage (69.3). Some of his prime targets include wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh, who caught the go-ahead touchdown against Troy last Saturday, and running back CJ Marable.

Heiligh leads the team in receiving yards with 820, which is good enough for 18th in the nation. His 10 receiving touchdowns this year is tied for fifth in all of college football.

In the backfield, Marable needs only 156 more rushing yards to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards on the season. His 844 rushing yards is 16th in the nation and he's tied for 7th in rushing touchdowns (12). Marable is tied for second in total scoring touchdowns (19), only trailing Najee Harris of Alabama and Javonte Williams of North Carolina who each have 22 total touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, the Chanticleers' "Black Swarm" defense is 16th in nation, allowing just 18.7 points per game. The Chants have six players with at least 50 or more total tackles this season. The defensive front four, which features CJ Brewer, Jeffrey Gunter, Jerrod Clark and Tarron Jackson, posted a combined total of 187 tackles, 39 tackles for loss and 24 sacks. 

Those kinds of numbers, along with four wins over Top 50 teams this season, have pushed Coastal to one of the teams in the country this year.

"Our resume stacks up," Chadwell said. "And to beat that, we're America's team. Everyone knows about the Chanticleers."


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