In their first true road game of the season, the Chanticleers managed to eke out a 28-25 win over the Buffalo Bulls on Saturday.
“I’m very appreciative of the win,” head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “I thought they were a very good, physical opponent. We faced a lot of adversity throughout the game.”
Saturday’s victory was the Chants' first win in the state of New York and their first win over a MAC program, something Chadwell said the team was happy to accomplish.
“We’ve been hearing that all week,” the coach said. “We can now get that off of our record books there.”
After forcing the Bulls to go three-and-out on their opening drive, the Chants marched down the field and Aaron Bedgood opened the scoring for the day thanks to a 16-yard touchdown pass from Grayson McCall.
Buffalo responded with a nearly five-minute drive to tie things up. The Chants allowed two third down conversions on that tying touchdown drive. Third downs were an issue for the Chanticleer defense Saturday as Buffalo went 9 of 16 on third downs.
“There’s a lot plays that you could look at where we could’ve done something better,” linebacker Silas Kelly said. “That’s the beauty of having a game like this. You come out with a win, get to come back and look at the film and see the areas we can improve on. We had a hard fought victory today and hopefully those mistakes that we made on third down, we will be able to clean those up.”
Buffalo took the lead with just over 30 seconds to go in the first quarter but the Chants quickly responded with a drive that featured history for senior wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh. Going into Saturday’s game, Heiligh needed only 48 yards to reach 2,000 career receiving yards. With two catches, one of them being a touchdown, Heiligh recorded 53 yards on the drive, making him the fourth Chanticleer to reach the milestone.
The two teams shared some misfortune on special teams over the next two drives. After Buffalo missed a 51-yard field goal, the Chants looked to capitalize and made their way down the field on what was a seven-minute drive. That set up a 22-yard chip shot field goal for freshman Liam Gray. However, the ball bounced off the upright and the score remained even at 14.
“He’s actually kicked the ball really well all fall camp,” Chadwell said. “We have a lot of confidence in him and that’s why I ran him out there. It just hit the upright and I say, 'Hey, we’ll get the next one.' He’s already upset that he missed it. There’s no point of me going over there and ripping him. I thought he handled it well. He came back over and said, 'I’ll get the next one.'”
One of biggest factors in the victory for the Chants Saturday was the play from senior running back Shermari Jones. Jones broke his record of 102 rushing yards he set the week before, going for 149 yards Saturday on 16 carries and finding the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Jones made his presence felt the entire game, but one of the most important runs came right out of the gate in the second half when he bolted 50 yards on the first play.
“It set the tone majorly,” Jones said. “It brought a lot of momentum and it had us going. And that’s what we needed to do.”
The Chants scored and retook the lead on their opening drive of the second half thanks to a six-yard touchdown pass from McCall to Isaiah Likely. Still, Buffalo would not go away, cutting the lead to four with a 36-yard field goal from Alex McNulty.
After going up 28-17 thanks to a touchdown by Jones, Coastal had a chance to put a nail in the coffin, but McCall had his pass intercepted in the end zone, ultimately leading to a 92-yard touchdown drive that put the Bulls within a field goal. Following the interception, McCall was visibly frustrated coming to the sidelines.
“Sometimes the coach might not make the best call and it’s the quarterback’s job to make the best play out of it and be accountable for what you’re doing,” Chadwell said. “He was emotional because he made a bad decision. I’m emotional because maybe it wasn’t the best call at the time. We’re both competing with passion and he had to understand and be smart. It’s a learning experience.”
Despite Buffalo having all three timeouts, the Chanticleers managed to run out the clock and escape with the win.
“I felt like we were in control there in the second half,” Chadwell said. “It was good to face adversity. We didn’t play our best overall. We found a way to win. And any time you go on the road, it’s tough, especially when you’re getting everybody’s best shot, and so I’m pleased that we got the victory and I’m pleased we grinded it out there.”
With the 15th ranked Hokies of Virginia Tech losing to West Virginia, Coastal has a chance to crack the Top 15. And while the voters have slighted the Chants in the past, being ranked in the Top 15 is the last thing on this team’s mind.
“I really don’t care about the rankings,” Kelly said.
Coastal returns to Brooks Stadium next Saturday to host Massachusetts, a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 and has gone 1-18 in the past three years.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. between the Chants and the Minutemen.