CCU Football 2021

File photo by Ian Livingston Brooking.

Coastal Carolina is looking to rebound Thursday versus Sun Belt East Division foe Troy following a heartbreaking loss on the road to Appalachian State.

“We got a very challenging game coming up,” head coach Jamey Chadwell said Monday during a weekly press conference.

While Chadwell said the team didn’t play its best in key situations during last Wednesday’s loss, he has liked what he has seen in practice leading up to Thursday’s matchup with the Trojans.

“We’ve learned from it this week,” Chadwell said. “We’re going to have to play really well this week to win a game.”

Despite the Chants suffering their first loss of the season, the team remained in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll. Coastal, now 6-1 on the year, dropped 10 spots, coming in at 24, ahead of BYU.

Coastal and BYU round out Week 9’s AP Top 25 poll as the sixth and seventh non-Power 5 programs to be ranked in the Top 25. The seven non-Power 5 programs ranked this week is the most so far this season. While there was debate on whether or not the Chants would fall from the rankings, many felt that the Chants staying in the Top 25 is a sign of much-deserved respect after what the program and other Group of Five programs have done over the past few seasons. However, it wasn’t something that Chadwell had paid much attention to.

“We obviously lost one game but I hope what people are realizing is that we lost a game at a tough place against a really tough opponent and more people realize how good our league is,” Chadwell said. “Hopefully, that’s the case. We’ll see what happens.”

If the past two matchups between these two programs is any indication as what to expect on the gridiron Thursday night, fans should be treated to another classic of Sun Belt East Division foes battling it out.

While the Chants no longer control their destiny in getting to the Sun Belt title game, the team still has plenty to fight for and every game for the remainder of the season is critical.

“They’re all must-win games,” Chadwell said. “App State is obviously in the driver’s seat so whoever could win Thursday night puts you still just one game back. I am not saying that this is an elimination game by any means but it does put you right there in case something does happen to App State down the road.”

The Chants and Trojans will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night at Brooks Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Here are three things to know before kickoff Thursday night:

THE OPPONENT

The Troy Trojans enter Thursday’s contest with a 4-3 overall are coming off 12 days rest after their 31-28 win over Texas State.

The Trojans have arguably one of the best defenses in the conference, holding opponents to 20 points per game and barely letting opponents eclipse 275 yards per game. Troy’s defense has also forced 16 turnovers this season — tied for eighth in the nation. The 12 interceptions forced this year for the Trojans puts them tied for second in the country with programs Kent State and No. 2 Cincinnati.

After Appalachian State, CCU senior offensive lineman Sam Thompson said the message in practice this week has been simple: play better.

“Troy gives us a lot of looks,” Thompson said. “They fly around and they have a lot of playmakers.”

Some of those playmakers include Carlton Martial, who had 21 tackles in last year’s matchup with the Chants, along with a sack and an interception. This year, Martial leads the pack in total tackles with 64. The second leading tackler is Javon Solomon with 35. However, Solomon has made his 35 tackles worthwhile as he has 12 tackles for loss to go with 7.5 sacks. Richard Jibunor has also been a dominating force for the Trojans, with 21 tackles — eight of which have been sacks.

Troy’s defense has accounted for 31 sacks this season.

“We have to execute and play better,” Thompson said.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Trojans have looked to Gunter Watson the past two games following an injury to the Trojans original starting quarterback Taylor Powell.

Watson has completed 46 of his 65 passes for 452 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games for the Trojans — both of which were victories.

Super senior Silas Kelly said while watching film of Troy, he noticed that the Trojans offense has become more balanced.

“In general, they run the spread,” Kelly said. “They like to sling it around. They like to get you on the edges. They move quickly. A lot of that stuff bleeds into you’re running all over the place. They want to get you tired. They want to get you on your heels. And they want to get the ball out into space for their playmakers.”

RE-ESTABLISHING THE RUN

Following an abysmal 57 yards rushing for the Chants against Appalachian State, Thompson said he was disappointed that the Chants couldn’t get the ground game going.

“Throughout the game, I was looking at the jumbotron and looking at how many yards rushing we had,” Thompson said. “I know we gave up three sacks and a couple [tackles for loss] but seeing 57 rushing yards did not sit well with me at all.”

Troy might not be the best opponent for the Chanticleers, following their performance at Appalachian State.

The Trojans run defense allows 94.4 rushing yards per game, good enough for best in the Sun Belt and 14th best in the nation. The Trojans also allow 2.57 yards per rush, which is fifth best in the country.

Chadwell said his guys on the offensive know the challenge ahead of them.

“Our guys up front know that we have got to be able to control the line of scrimmage,” Chadwell said. “That doesn’t mean you have to rush for 200 yards every game but you have got to be able to rush it where you pin their ears back. We know we have to do that this week.”

Chadwell added focusing on keeping McCall from getting sacked will play a big role in the outcome of Thursday’s game.

“They play a lot of players and give you a lot of different looks,” Chadwell said. “Their M.O. is that they’re going to get you for a sack or a tackle for loss. They’re good at what they do. They fit things very well, their linebackers do. And they have great support from the secondary. They’re very aggressive and physical.”

BATTLE ‘TIL THE END

The last two matchups between the Chants and the Trojans have gone down to the wire, the result going in favor of the Chants. Coastal has defeated Troy by a total of five combined points in the previous two matchups. In both matchups, the Chants scoring the winning touchdown in the final 35 seconds of the game.

Chadwell said both programs are relatively even across the board in many aspects of the game.

“You got two quality teams that are very similar as far as makeup,” Chadwell said. “They got really, really good players and we do too. When you have two teams like that that battle and that respect each other, you’re going to end up with some good games.”

In 2019, the Chants were pushing for their first-ever bowl bid and were looking to end a three-game losing streak on a cold November night in Conway. Troy had retaken the lead midway through the fourth quarter and both teams traded punts before the Chants got the ball at their own 29-yard line with 2:15 left in the game. The Chants marched down the field and C.J. Marable pushed his way in from three yards out, putting the Chants within a point from tying.

Chadwell decided to go for it all. For a moment, all was lost as Bryce Carpenter’s pass fell incomplete, but a pass interference call gave the Chants a second chance. Marable played the hero once again, waltzing his way in from a yard out to ultimately give the Chants a 36-35 victory.

Last season, the Chanticleers were vying for their first-ever perfect season and a late touchdown from the Trojans had all but scratched that opportunity. That’s when Grayson McCall and Jaivon Heiligh linked up three times to go 75 yards in 45 seconds as Heiligh’s third catch of the drive was the game-winning touchdown. Jeffrey Gunter forced a fumble on the ensuing drive to seal the 42-38 victory and the first perfect regular season.

While the last two victories have been nail biters for the Chanticleers, it has been an improvement from the program’s first two matchups with the Trojans that saw the Chants be blown out twice by a combined 49 points.

“It’s taken us a while to get here,” Chadwell said. “It’s taken us a while to close that gap and we’re fortunate the last two years to win late in the fourth quarter.”

Chadwell said he and the team expect another barnburner at Brooks Stadium Thursday night.

Reach Ian Livingston Brooking at 843-248-6882 for any story ideas or news happening in your area.

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