Following another close battle with Troy last Thursday, the Chanticleers hit the road for a trip to Statesboro, Georgia, to battle with Sun Belt East Division foe Georgia Southern on Saturday.
“We’ve got a very quality opponent that we’re playing,” Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell said.
Despite the Eagles starting the year 2-6 and now former USC head coach Clay Helton taking the reins in Statesboro, Chadwell said the Eagles aren’t a team to consider as an afterthought.
“They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of pride, a lot of tradition in that program,” Chadwell said. “We have to go out and play extremely well and play our type of game in all three phases there because it’s a tough place win.”
The last time these two met in Statesboro, it was an instant classic filled with a monsoon, three overtimes and an epic dance battle. Who knows what will come next between the Chants and the Eagles this Saturday?
The party between the Chants and the Eagles begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. The game will be televised on ESPN+.
Here are four things you need to know going into Saturday’s matchup:
Georgia Southern is coming off a rough loss to in-state and conference foe Georgia State. The Eagles had tied things up at 14 with less than 1:45 to go in the game, but Conway High School alum Darren Grainger led the Panthers down the field and Jamyest Williams scored the dagger with 26 seconds to go to break the Eagles’ hearts.
Following the loss, Georgia Southern’s interim head coach Kevin Whitley was relieved of his duties after four games. On Tuesday, the university announced that former USC head coach Clay Helton had been hired as the new head coach for the Eagles. Helton went 46-24 during his time with the Trojans, including a 10-3 season in 2016 that was capped off by a thrilling 52-49 Rose Bowl win over Penn State.
Helton now takes over a team that has lost three straight games and suffered back-to-back home losses for the first time since 2017.
During his weekly press conference Wednesday, Chadwell emphasized turnovers and third downs as key stats that he and his staff look at following games. While the Eagles have only forced five turnovers this year, the Eagles have held their opponents to 41% on third downs and 22% on fourth downs.
“If you’re not good on third down, then you’re probably not controlling the ball,” Chadwell said. “You don’t have the opportunity to score points.”
While the run defense for the Eagles looks solid, there appears to be weaknesses in the passing game as the Eagles have allowed nearly 325 yards per game through the air. Still, offensive lineman Steven Bedosky views the Eagles defense as one of most physical defenses in the conference.
“They’ve had a lot of things going on outside of football and that really hasn’t seemed to stop their motor and keep pushing and going after you,” Bedosky said. “I commend them for that. I look forward to the challenge and it’s a strong group of guys that we have to go at. It’s going to be a hard-nosed football matchup.”
Despite the 2-6 record, Chadwell is reminding his team to not overlook the Eagles.
“I think it’s easy when you can look at a record and look at ‘Oh, this team is struggling because they’re not winning as many games’ but I think you have to look beyond that and see how a team plays,” Chadwell said. “Are they still playing hard? Do they have good players? And Georgia Southern does. If we go down there with a mindset that we’re just going to show up and win, then we’re going to come back to Conway with a loss.”
WHO’S IN AND WHO’S OUT?
In last week’s game versus Troy, running back Reese White was taken to the locker room and later returned to the sidelines on crutches. Chadwell said White will be out for Saturday’s game and didn’t provide a clear timetable for his return.
“That was an ankle injury and ankles are tough to come back from,” Chadwell said. “It could be two weeks, it could be longer. We just have to see how the rehab goes and how his ankle responds to the treatment and the different things that he’s getting.”
Cornerback Jordan Morris could see his return to the field this weekend after missing the last four games with an ankle injury.
“He’s big on our special teams,” Chadwell said.
Chadwell said a decision to play Morris would come a day or two before Saturday.
Aside from Morris and White, Chadwell said there were some players banged up, but he didn’t anticipate anyone else missing this week’s battle on the road.
“We got to continue to have some good treatment and those things but everyone’s trending to where we should be good to go Saturday,” Chadwell said.
A COMMON FOE
Since jumping to FBS in 2017, Georgia Southern is one of the few FBS programs the Chanticleers used to tussle with back in their FCS days.
The Chants had lost three straight games against the Eagles during their FCS days and Coastal nabbed their first win over Southern in 2017 in the final game of the season. Since joining FBS, the Chants are 2-2 against Georgia Southern, their other victory coming last year in a tightly contested matchup that saw the Chants score 28 points, their third lowest for the 2020 season.
“We’ve had very physical games, tough games with them,” Chadwell said. “We’ve had tough, physical games where both teams played extremely well. Our guys know it’s going to be a physical battle. They know the challenge there.”
One of most memorable matchups between the two was in 2019 when the Chants fell in triple overtime to the Eagles 30-27.
In that game, the score was tied at 10 at the end of regulation. It felt as if with each passing overtime, the more the rain pounded Allen E. Paulson Stadium.
After trading touchdowns in the first two overtimes, the Chants nabbed a field goal and hoped a defensive stop would be enough to end the game. On 3rd down and 2, J.D. King broke for 14 yards, setting up the game-winning touchdown on the next play by Wesley Kennedy.
Saturday’s trip to Statesboro will be the first since that matchup. It’s something that Bedosky is looking forward to.
“That environment is always fun,” Bedosky said. “It’s always a fun time when you got fan involvement. They know your mom’s name, your dad’s name, your girlfriend’s name, your grandma’s name. They come at you from all angles. It’s a heck of an environment and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
DANCE OFF PART 2?
The 2019 matchup between the Chants and the Eagles was not only an instant classic — it also produced one of the most unusual moments of the college football season that year.
As the teams switched fields between the 3rd and 4th quarter, the song "Mo Bamba" by Sheck Wes blasted throughout the stadium, hyping up the crowd, the players and the coaching staffs for both programs. Both teams got so into it, that a dance battle ensued and members of both programs slowly made their way on the field but didn’t go past the numbers on the sidelines.
Before things got any further, the officials stepped in and calling unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on every player of both teams. With two Coastal players already being called for unsportsmanlike conduct, the additional penalty caused them to be ejected. Another Georgia Southern player was ejected as well due to unsportsmanlike conduct penalty accumulation.
Should fans expect another dance-off between the Chants and the Eagles? Coastal senior linebacker C.J. Brewer said it’s a possibility.
“Ain’t no tellin’,” Brewer said with a smile. “Maybe, maybe not. Our goal is to just go out there and have fun like we always do and come out with a victory.”