CCU The Citadel FB ILB 08

Fans go crazy during Coastal Carolina's season opener Thursday night at Brooks Stadium in Conway. Coastal Carolina defeated The Citadel 52-14 Thursday in the Chanticleers' season opener. Photo by Ian Livingston Brooking.

After a close call on the road in Buffalo last weekend, Coastal Carolina returnS to Conway to face a familiar opponent in UMass on Saturday.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. between the Chants and the Minutemen. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

While the Minutemen are 1-18 since the start of the 2018 season, the Chants' head coach Jamey Chadwell said he’s seen improvements in the program since the two teams last met in 2019.

“They’ve brought in a lot of different players,” Chadwell said. “They have a completely different team that’s playing now, a completely different scheme. I think they’ve improved tremendously.”

The last time these two teams met up in 2019, it was Coastal all day and then some. The Chanticleers were all over the field that game day in Amherst with the offense going for 636 total yards. Current Chanticleers Reese White, Aaron Bedgood, Bryce Carpenter and Jaivon Heiligh all chipped in on offense that day. The Chants had a 42-14 lead going into the half before eventually securing a 62-28 victory on the road.

Aside from the team's season-opening blowout loss to Pittsburgh, UMass has stuck around with its previous two opponents in Boston College and Eastern Michigan, only to let the win slip away toward the end.

“They’ve played three really good teams up to this point and really been in all those games up until the fourth quarter,” Chadwell said. “We got a very quality opponent coming in and one that we’re going to have to play well if we’re going to go out and win.”

Ahead of kickoff Saturday, here are four things to know ahead of round four between the Chants and the Minutemen:

THE OPPONENT

Coastal Carolina is 3-0 all-time against UMass, the first victory coming in 2017 – CCU’s first season in FBS.

“That was the only good memory of that season at all,” Chadwell, referencing the Chant’s 3-9 record in 2017. “That was a special night just from a standpoint of your FBS game, first time having the opportunity to win there.”

One of the biggest challenges for the Minutemen this season has been the first quarter. The Minutemen have been outscored 41-0 in the first quarter alone. That might be a good thing for UMass considering that CCU has been outscored in the first quarter 23-21 in the first three games of the season.

However, Coastal Carolina typically turns things up in the second quarter as the Chants have outscored opponents 52-6 during the second quarter. Good news for the Chants is that the Minutemen have only scored 7 points in the first half this entire season. Saturday’s matchup might be the game the Chanticleers need to come out swinging and not stop until the final whistle blows.

Brady Olson leads the way for the Minutemen at the quarterback position, completing 36 of his 67 pass attempts, tossing 502 yards for five touchdowns. Olson has also thrown three interceptions this season. On the ground, Ellis Merriweather has been the go-to back for the Minutemen. Merriweather has rushed for 203 yards on 37 carries this season but has yet to find the end zone.

On the defensive side, linebackers Da’Shon Ross and Gerrell Johnson lead the team in tackles with 23 each this season. Ross has one of the Minutemen’s two sacks on the year. While the UMass defense has given up an average of 525.3 yards per game, the defense does know how to put the ball on the ground, recovering five fumbles this season.

WHERE’S THE TURNOVER CLOAK?

One of the biggest fixtures for the Chanticleers last season was the "Turnover Cloak " — a Game of Thrones-style black cloak that is donned by a player that either has an interception or recover a fumble.

Last season, the Chanticleers forced 25 turnovers overall, with Alex Spillum wearing the cloak the most thanks to four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

This year? The Chanticleers have yet to force a turnover. It’s something that has bugged the coaching staff and players.

“We talked about it as a staff this week,” Chadwell said. “We’ve not had any turnovers.”

Last week against Buffalo, the Chants forced the ball on the ground twice but was unable to recover.

“We’ve had multiple opportunities,” nose tackle Jerrod Clark said. “It just hasn’t happened yet.”

In their previous three matchups with UMass, the Chanticleer defense has forced two turnovers. Despite UMass putting the ball on the ground six times in these matchups, the Chants have only been able to recover one fumble and that was back in their 24-13 win in 2018.

“We’ve got to create more turnovers,” Chadwell said. “We’ve got to get some more batted balls. We’ve got to knock down the ball from a pass defense stop. We don’t have a lot of pass breakups. We’ve got to do a better job from that standpoint.”

NOT PUTTING THE CART AHEAD OF THE HORSE

Coastal Carolina is a 36-point favorite over UMass as of Friday afternoon, the third largest spread among Top 25 teams this weekend behind Ohio State (48.5-point favorite over Akron) and Alabama (45-point favorite over Southern Mississippi). And while the Minutemen are currently last in FBS in points allowed per play, Chadwell said his team is just focused on one thing – winning.

“You can say ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and win by this’ because I think anytime you act, think or feel that you’re better than somebody and you don’t have humility then that’s what ends up biting you,” Chadwell said. “And we’re not good enough overall right now to be overlooking anybody. So our goal is to go out and play our very best and go win a game.”

In the film room this past week, Chadwell showed footage from the 2019 UMass game to the team they have now, showing the newest members of the team and those who were on the field two years ago the difference two years can make.

“You can never judge an opponent by their record,” Chadwell said. “It’s more about us and going out and playing our best. Can we go out and be better? And for you to be better, you have to go out and play your very best. We’ve put the focus on things we need to improve on and go out and get better.”

Chadwell said the veteran players understand the difficulty in coming out of each week with a win.

“[They understand that] if you take anybody lightly, you have a chance to get beat,” Chadwell said. “We’ve got to make sure from a coaching standpoint that our practices are intense and that we’re locked in on the things we need to do.”

The UMass game comes a week before the Chanticleers open conference play with Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 2. Looking ahead to that game is something that Chadwell is looking to avoid with his team.

“Sun Belt play is always going to be there,” Chadwell said. “You want to have the best non-conference record going into conference play. The main thing we try to focus on in our program is what’s important now. That’s what winning comes from. What’s important now is for us to go out and win a championship this week. And we’re playing for a championship.”

Coastal Carolina will look to make it 10 straight home victories Saturday afternoon at Brooks Stadium in what will be a “Teal Out” at Brooks Stadium. The Chanticleers will also be going back to 1995 with a throwback logo on their helmets this weekend. The current logo was introduced in 2002 ahead of the program’s inaugural season in 2003.

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

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