CHARLESTON, S.C. – Special teams and turnovers led the way as Charleston Southern won their third-straight Big South game taking down Stony Brook, who was tied for the lead in the Big South, 30-27 in overtime Saturday afternoon at Buccaneer Field. The game had three ties, including a 27-27 knot at the end of regulation, but CSU never trailed after taking an early 7-0 lead.
An 89-yard return for a touchdown by Deon Lee on the opening kick of the game helped the Bucs (5-5, 3-2 Big South) avenge a one-point loss to Stony Brook (5-5, 4-1) in New York a year ago. It was the first kick return for a touchdown by a CSU player since Mike Washington took one back 98 yards for the score against South Florida on Nov. 2, 2002. It is the second special teams’ touchdown in three weeks after Antwan Ivey returned a punt for six points against VMI on October 31.
CSU also got a defensive touchdown for the second week in a row when Charles James ran through a pass in the third quarter for a 51-yard return to put CSU up 27-17. It was the second interception of the season for James, having gotten his first last weekend against Presbyterian College.
The defense now has seven interceptions in the past two games, giving them 10 for the season. With two interceptions Saturday, Chris Kuzdale tied the school record, marking the ninth time in CSU history that a Buccaneer has intercepted a pair of passes in the same game. It was Kuzdale’s third interception of the season and of his career, but none were bigger than on the first play of the overtime period as he picked off Michael Coulter on the 15 yardline, leaving CSU needing only a field goal to earn the victory.
"We're three-for-three now when we win the turnover battle, and that's very crucial for us,” said Head Coach Jay Mills. “I think the key is that are guys are buying into the scheme and into each other."
An end-around to Gerald Stevenson was stopped behind the line of scrimmage by Stephen Schwicke on CSU’s first touch in overtime, but the Bucs got five yards back on two-straight carries by DeMarcus Moon. That set up the game-winning, 43-yard field goal by John Paglia. It was Paglia’s third field goal of the game, all coming from beyond 40 yards, including a school-record 51 yard connection to put CSU up 17-14 on the second play of the second quarter.
"I'm just happy my team got me in a position to make the kick,” said Paglia. “I didn't really even celebrate much. It's my job to make that kick; it's what I'm here to do. Having made the longer field goals earlier in the game gave me a lot of confidence. I just told the snapper and the holder that if they would get it down, I would make it. More than anything, I give credit to the defense. If (Chris) Kuzdale doesn't make that interception, we aren't even in that position."
Stony Brook held a 422-293 advantage in total offense, thanks to the dominant rushing duo of Edwin Gowins (18 carries, 177 yards) and Conte Cuttino (21 carries, 163 yards). Coulter completed just 10 of his 34 pass attempts, throwing three interceptions.
CSU had trouble running the ball, gaining just 79 yards on 30 carries, but A.J. Toscano completed 19 of his 32 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Toscano also had one interception on the day.
Gerald Stevenson had eight receptions for 76 yards and carried the ball one time, while Moon had 13 carries for 38 yards to lead the way on the ground and was second on the team with four receptions for 21 yards.
Andrew McKain had a career day with 14 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He also had one of eight pass breakups for the defense as they tallied six tackles for loss and two sacks. Joe Robinson also had a career-high nine tackles with a pass breakup for CSU.
Arin West led the defense for SBU with 10 stops and recovered one of two CSU fumbles.
It was the first overtime game of the season for either team, and the second year in a row that the Bucs have reached three Big South wins.
"Our guys work extremely hard year-round to put themselves in a position to win games like that,” said Head Coach Jay Mills about the overtime victory. “We talked about that in June and July and during two-a-days in August, that should we get in that position, we would have the competitive edge. And we have that sense that we've been there before, and we'll be successful again. That's what happened today."
CSU can secure their fourth winning season in the last five years with a victory over Coastal Carolina next weekend. It is Hall of Fame Weekend for the Buccaneers with the game kicking off at 1:30 p.m. from Buccaneer Field.
Photo GalleryRelated Item: Box Score