CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern no longer claims Coastal Carolina as a Big South Conference rival but the Bucs still count Saturday's trip to Conway as a big one. No. 8/10 CSU takes on No. 14 Coastal Carolina in a non-conference game for the first time, with kickoff at Brooks Stadium slated for 6 p.m. A live video feed is available for $9.99 on goccusports.com. Fans can also listen on csusports.com, with pregame coverage beginning at 5:45 p.m.
CSU (2-2, 1-0 Big South) knocked Coastal (3-1) off the Big South pedestal last year, registering a 33-25 Halloween night win to deny the Chanticleers a fourth consecutive league title. There are no championship implications surrounding this matchup, with Coastal competing as an FCS independent as it transitions to the FBS level and the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. There's no denying, though, that the 14th meeting between the young programs is meaningful for CSU.
"It's a big game because of the rivalry and because of the history that we've had," said CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell. "The games that we've played the last three years have been significant games, games that we've had circled, and it's always fun to play them. We've not won there in a long time so that's something that's a challenge for this team to break that streak."
To break a three-game losing streak in Conway, the Bucs will need to play crisper, more consistent football. CSU scored touchdowns on its first four second half possessions to roll past Monmouth, 35-7, despite committing two first half turnovers and several drive-stalling penalties. CSU is -4 in turnover margin through four games and the margin for error figures to be slimmer against a Coastal club featuring All-American running back De'Angelo Henderson and several talented receivers.
CSU is back in the top ten of both major national polls and a win at Coastal could help continue to build a strong early resume for the FCS Playoffs and, possibly, a national seed. Coastal has posted three convincing wins and nearly knocked off No. 4/3 Jacksonville State, last year's national runner-up, in a 27-26 road loss.
"It's an important game for us because if we can go up there and win, it helps us nationally," Chadwell said. "It helps our conference and it helps our national reputation. More importantly, they're a really good team so it gives us a chance to see where we're at with some of the injuries and other things we've been working through to get better this first month."
Holloway & Henderson in matchup of dynamic backs
CSU's Mike Holloway and Coastal's De'Angelo Henderson are two of the nation's most explosive running backs.
Holloway sits just 114 yards shy of breaking Christian Reyes' program rushing record thanks to a huge three-game start to his senior season. He is averaging 14.4 yards per carry and has reached the end zone on six of his 25 touches, with a 63-yard touchdown catch on top of five rushing scores. Holloway has been critical in CSU's ability to put up well over 400 yards of offense, while controlling the time of possession battle, in the last three games against Coastal. He's tallied 350 yards and three touchdowns on 31 touches, with his production paramount in the Bucs' 2013 and 2015 wins.
Henderson, a local product from Summerville High School, extended his NCAA Division I record for consecutive games with a touchdown to 30 in last Saturday's rout of Furman. With two more yards, Henderson will become one of just five active players in Division I to go over the 4,000-yard plateau. The two-time All-Big South pick racked up 110 yards and three touchdowns against CSU in a 43-22 Coastal win two years ago.
Both sides looking to make strides at quarterback
Shane Bucenell and Robert Mitchell shared the quarterback duties at Monmouth. Bucenell threw for 98 yards and a touchdown and ran for 73 yards in his first career start. Mitchell sparked CSU off the bench by directing a 7-play, 73-yard second quarter touchdown drive. London Johnson made the start against Florida State and is displaying a better grasp of the Bucs' system in practice. All three are trying to fill the void left by redshirt junior Kyle Copeland, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Kentucky State.
Coastal had a tall task coming into the year to try to replace Alex Ross, the Big South's second all-time leading passer. That task became more cumbersome when starter Josh Stilley went down with a knee injury against Jacksonville State. Tyler Keane has played in all four games and made his first career start versus Furman, passing for 130 yards and two scores.
Return game could be crucial
CSU's Darius Hammond and Coastal's Devin Brown are two home run threats in the return game.
Hammond, a two-time All-Big South pick at punt returner, ripped off a key 58-yard kickoff return last week following a Monmouth touchdown that trimmed CSU's lead to 14-7.
Brown, a three-time all-conference selection at kick returner, is averaging over 25 yards per return. His five kick return touchdowns is the most in Big South history, one shy of tying the FCS record and two short of the FBS record. Tyler Ky'Jon, meanwhile, sparked the Chanticleers with an 80-yard punt return touchdown against Furman.