CCU Football 2021

File photo by Ian Livingston Brooking.

After back-to-back games in a monsoon, it looks like sunny skies and beautiful weather Saturday in Conway as the Chanticleers return home to Brooks Stadium for a critical matchup against Georgia State.

The Chanticleers are looking to continue their 12-game winning streak and also do something that has never been done at Brooks Stadium – beat the Georgia State Panthers.

“That’s a big deal for us,” Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “It’s a chance to play in front of our home crowd. It’s a chance for our community and our fans and our students to show up early and be loud. This is a tough opponent coming in here.”

While the Panthers might be a game under .500, Chadwell said the Panthers are a few solid plays away from having a completely different record.

“They’re within 20 points of being 7-2 or 6-3 at worst,” Chadwell said. “They’ve played a tough schedule and had the opportunity to win some games. They’re a talented team coming in here.”

Kickoff between the Chanticleers and the Panthers is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Brooks Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

With a chance to make history on Saturday, here are three things you need to know ahead of kickoff.

THE OPPONENT

Georgia State enters Saturday’s contest following a tough loss to Sun Belt leaders Louisiana-Lafayette last week.

The Panthers had a chance to win the game, but back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth down ended the Panthers' opportunity to sneak out of Lafayette with a win, ultimately falling 21-17.

The Panthers come to Conway with a 4-5 overall record, and with three games to go, they are on the hunt for bowl eligibility.

“They’re good,” Chadwell said. “We know what they were last year mostly and what we’ve seen the last three years. We know they’ve got good players. They play hard and they got talent in a lot of areas and so we know it’s a talent football team coming in here.”

The Panthers are a team that like to keep it close. While their opponents are averaging 29.1 points per game, the Panthers are averaging 23.1 points per game – a difference less than a touchdown.

The Panthers offense averages over 375 yards a game, with a near 60-40 balance between running the ball and passing.

“When they do a little bit of both, they make it a little more challenging for your defense,” Chadwell said. “That’ll be our biggest challenge.”

Georgia State has the second best rushing offense behind Coastal Carolina, something that Chadwell has been emphasizing to his team.

“They’re fast and they’re able to get some big, explosive runs,” Chadwell said. “We’re going to have to do a good job of maintaining our gaps and then doing a good job of the RPO (run, pass, option) because they’re a good RPO team.”

GRAYSON MCCALL

Prior to the start of the Georgia Southern game last Saturday, it was announced that redshirt sophomore and start quarterback Grayson McCall would be out indefinitely for the Chants with an upper body injury. Though information about his specific injuries has not been released, there were reports that McCall was spotted with his arm in a sling during the Georgia Southern game.

Earlier this week, there were reports from major outlets, including ESPN, that McCall was out for the year, causing a stir among Chanticleer fans.

On Wednesday, Chadwell addressed the rumors about McCall and the quarterback’s status.

“I want to make sure you guys understand this – there is potential that Grayson couldn’t play again,” Chadwell said in his opening statement at Wednesday’s press conference. “There’s potential that he could play again.”

Chadwell did confirm the injury that McCall sustained does not require surgery. Chadwell said when it comes to injuries, there are two factors he keeps in mind – if the injury will require surgery and will it hurt longterm to play again. As for the second factor, Chadwell said it comes down to a simple yes or no.

“If the answer is yes, then [McCall] won’t play anymore this season,” Chadwell said. “If the answer is no, then through our doctors and trainers, it comes down to rehab, recovery and then how much pain can he play with. If the pain is to a point where he can manage it and it doesn’t affect him, then he will have the opportunity to return and play. If the pain is such that it affects him playing to his best ability, then he won’t play until he’s better.”

Chadwell did not offer a timetable for McCall’s return.

“Could it be three more weeks? Yeah, it could be,” Chadwell said. “Could it be less than that? Sure. Right now, we’re working through all those things, but there’s nothing from an injury that requires surgery. Then the next question is if he plays again, will it injure him long-term? If that answer is no, then it goes into how much pain can he handle and all those different things.”

McCall missed a few snaps during the Chants’ last home game versus Troy on Oct. 28 after taking a hard hit, causing him vomit on the field. After missing a few plays and being evaluated by the medical staff, McCall returned and finished the game with 294 yards passing, completing 14 of 26 passes, and throwing for 2 touchdowns and an interception. McCall also ran the ball 15 times for 61 yards and a touchdown in the 35-28 win over the Trojans.

With 2,063 passing yards this season, McCall is currently on pace to surpass last season’s total passing yards and potentially eclipse 5,000 career passing yards, becoming just the fourth Chanticleer to do so.

McCall has also been named to the watchlists of numerous accolades, including the Davey O’Brian Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, and a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award.

Bryce Carpenter, who shared the starting position with Fred Payton during the 2019 season, will get the start against the Panthers.

A DIFFERENT TYPE OF HOMECOMING

It may be homecoming weekend for the Chanticleers, but it is also a special homecoming for a member of the Georgia State Panthers. Former Conway Tiger Darren Grainger has been leading the Panthers this season, throwing for over 1,000 yards and has rushed for nearly 500.

Grainger played a crucial role in the Panthers’ game-winning drive against Georgia Southern two weeks ago.

Prior to joining Georgia State in January, Grainger spent his first two seasons of college football in the upstate at Furman. While he was a Paladin, Grainger became the starting quarterback in 2019, throwing for nearly 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best game at Furman ironically came against the Panthers when he threw for 311 yards on 16 of 25 yards passing and four touchdowns. Grainger also ran for 52 yards and a touchdown in the Paladins 48-42 loss in Atlanta.

Now, Grainger has a new mission – leading an upset against the Chanticleers in their own backyard, which just so happens to be his hometown.

Chadwell said he’s aware of how much this game means to Grainger as well as the threat he brings to the Panthers offense.

“I’m sure he’s excited about playing here and I’m sure he’ll have good fans and friends and family here,” Chadwell said. “He’s not their only good player. They’ve got a lot of good ones. We have to do our best job of putting him in situations that he’s not comfortable in. If you look at games he’s done really well in, he’s been able to run and throw. If you look at games they’ve struggled with, he’s struggled to throw the ball consistently.”

Chadwell said putting Grainger in third down and long situations is critical to a Chanticleer victory.

“We got to do a good job of that,” Chadwell said. “If they’re second and whatever, second down and short, all game, and third and short all game, it’s going to be tough because they can really open up that playbook. First downs are really going to be our key as far as if we can win first down and try to put him in situations where they can’t just try to run it down our throat consistently.”

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

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