Following another blowout victory on Saturday over Louisiana-Monroe, the 15th ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers shift their focus to a Thursday matchup at Arkansas State.
While the Red Wolves have lost four straight games, head coach Jamey Chadwell isn’t taking Coastal’s next opponent lightly.
“They’re struggling a little bit right now but they’ve got a lot talent and can score a lot of points,” Chadwell said of the Red Wolves.
Aside from Arkansas's 52-3 loss to Washington, the Red Wolves have managed to score 30 or more points in all four of their other games.
“They’re the most dynamic offense we’ve seen so far from a defensive standpoint,” Chadwell said.
The Chants hope the third time is the charm on their visit to Jonesboro, having lost the two previous matchups.
“We need to go up there and get our first win,” Chadwell said.
Coastal Carolina and Arkansas State is slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Here are four things you need to know ahead of the Chants Thursday night matchup against Arkansas State:
The Red Wolves enter Thursday night’s contest at 1-4 overall and 0-1 in Sun Belt play as the team comes off a 59-33 road loss to conference foe Georgia Southern. It will be the first home game for the Red Wolves in almost a month, with their last game at Centennial Bank Stadium on Sept. 11.
With the game scheduled for a Thursday night and nationally televised, Chadwell said he expects a decent crowd in Jonesboro and has been preparing his players for that environment.
“You got to do your best as far as practice, whether you have noise pumped in or you play louder music, you need something there to make sure your offense is ready for that, especially for third down,” Chadwell said.
The adjustment will help with both the verbal and non-verbal communication that happens on the field.
“You try to put them in a situation where [noise] is not a surprise,” Chadwell said. “We will do something throughout practice where we’ll play music or whatever may be playing so they’re hearing that and hearing loud noise where maybe it’s hard to hear each other so they got to do our communications. You obviously communicate through speaking but there’s also non-verbal communication that we work through so we can get ready for the crowd there. I’m sure there’s going to be a great crowd.”
The Red Wolves average 32 points per game, where the Chants defense is allowing 14 points a game, making way for a great matchup between a high-scoring offense and defense that has yet to allow a passing touchdown.
“They’re good,” Chadwell said. “They’re scoring points on everybody, no matter who they’re playing. It’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
The Red Wolves lean more on the pass than on the run, averaging over 375 yards passing per game compared to 94 yards rushing per game. Arkansas State has two quarterbacks who have proven to be versatile, despite recent results. James Blackman has played in all five games for Arkansas State, going for 1,274 yards passing including eight touchdowns. Layne Hatcher, the backup, has thrown for over 600 yards this season, along with seven touchdowns.
“They’re fluent in their passing game,” CCU cornerback Lance Boykin said. “They like to get guys involved early and often. That just means were are going to have to step up to the plate and welcome the challenge.”
While Coastal finally forced its first turnover this season in Saturday's win over ULM, the bright side in going up against the Arkansas State passing game is that the two quarterbacks have thrown a combined 6 interceptions-something that the Black Swarm defense must take advantage of should they want to leave Jonesboro with a victory.
Thursday’s matchup should see the return of three key players for the Chanticleers that either missed Saturday’s game versus ULM or were taken out for precaution.
Quarterback Grayson McCall didn’t play the entire second half Saturday, which was planned, according to Chadwell. However, McCall was seen in a walking boot throughout the remainder of the game. Chadwell said in his press conference Monday his star quarterback should be good to go.
“He should be ready to rock and roll for Thursday,” Chadwell said. “It was a lower body, precautionary thing on Saturday, but everything is looking great right now.”
Senior running back Shermari Jones is expected to return Saturday after missing the previous two games due to a lower body injury. Following the Chants 28-25 win at Buffalo on Sept. 18, Jones said he was dealing with turf toe much of the week.
Chadwell said Jones went through warm-ups last week but made the decision to hold him another week.
“He should be fine,” Chadwell said.
Senior kicker Massimo Biscardi is anticipated to return for the Chants after missing the last three games.
“He kicked a little bit [Sunday] and [Monday],” Chadwell said. “Hopefully he looks as good as he did yesterday and go from there.”
If there is one area that Coastal Carolina has improved on, it's their special teams. In CCU's first five games, they have had two special teams touchdowns and a botched punt turned into a safety. It's something that's become a bit of a highlight where it makes up for the defense’s lack in forcing turnovers.
“That’s 16 points, that’s a big deal,” Chadwell said. “That stuff matters. They’re doing a great job each week.”
Chadwell said Arkansas State does pose a challenge to CCU’s special teams as the Red Wolves have had two return touchdowns this season.
“They’ve got some dangerous people,” Chadwell said. “I think we’re going to see how good we are this week from the standpoint of the quality of how our special teams are playing.”
PREPARATION IS KEY
After three straight weeks of games being played on a Saturday, the Chanticleers now revert back to how their season started — playing on weekdays. Chadwell said when it comes to a short week, the focus comes down to what the team has done well with.
“You try to make sure that you continue to do that,” Chadwell said. “When you have a shorter week, you don’t have time to try new things or put any new stuff in. You got to do what you feel you do well from a run, pass standpoint and defense what you can execute and just make sure you handle your situations.”
Chadwell said the hardest part in planning during a short week is working on situational football — red zone, short yardage situations and third downs.
“Your first and second downs are pretty similar all year long, it’s the third downs and all those special situations that take a little while,” Chadwell said.