CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern returned from a three week layoff from game action with a vengeance, dominating on both sides of the football to register a 38-3 win over Presbyterian on Saturday at Buccaneer Field.
CSU (4-2, 2-0 Big South) outgained Presbyterian (2-5, 1-2 Big South) by 405 yards and did not allow a first down in the second half. PC's 102 yards are the fewest CSU has ever allowed to an FCS opponent. Offensively, the Bucs churned out 343 yards rushing at nearly eight yards per carry to get the better of a Blue Hose defense that stymied them in the last two matchups.
CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell was interested to see if his team's execution level would match its excitement at being back on the field. It did as the Bucs won their ninth straight home game and 11th consecutive league contest.
"I thought it was a pretty complete game," Chadwell said. "I really thought we played hard and executed pretty well. The defense played outstanding. We've gotta clean up some penalties in special teams but what I was worried about was executing and I thought our guys did a good job."
"It was good to get that feeling back to be out here in front of the home crowd," continued Chadwell of the homecoming 'Blue Out' crowd of 5,375. "It was a great atmosphere and we're excited about being 2-0 moving forward."
CSU blew the game open with two touchdowns in a 1:42 span late in the second quarter. Mike Holloway scored on a one-yard plunge to give the Bucs' a 14-3 edge with 3:12 left in the period. The score was set up by strikes of 19, 21 and 16 yards from Shane Bucenell, who was a perfect 9-of-9 for 111 yards in the first half. Bucenell would finish 13-of-14 for 156 yards in just his third career start. Following a PC three-and-out, Robert Mitchell sprinted for a 78-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper to push CSU's halftime advantage to 21-3. Mitchell cut back on an option play and showed off impressive breakaway speed on the Bucs' longest run of the season.
The Bucs kept the momentum rolling with a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. First down passes to Holloway, Colton Korn and Kameron Brown powered the series before Bucenell scampered 11 yards into the end zone to forge a 28-3 lead.
Mitchell re-entered on the ensuing possession, following another forced three-and-out by the Blue Swarm, to continue the onslaught. Holloway and Darius Hammond got the drive moving with runs of 15 and 22 yards before Mitchell covered the final 31 yard himself. Mitchell crossed the goal line from eight yards out on the final leg of that drive to push the lead to 35-3.
All along, CSU's defense was at its best. The Bucs yielded only 142 yards to the Blue Hose in a 10-7 defensive battle a year ago and picked off where they left off in that game. Nikolay Timoschuk, who moved back into a starting role at inside linebacker, paced CSU with seven tackles. Corbin Jackson and Zane Cruz each had five, while Seth Harrelson notched two tackles for loss while making his second career start.
CSU cornerback Troy McGowens' eighth career interception was the highlight of a scoreless opening quarter. PC quarterback John Walker aired a pass deep down the right sideline for Daryl Wilson but McGowens leapt up in front of him to bring in a pick at the CSU three-yard line.
"Our defense got back on track and was just outstanding," Chadwell said. "They were a little ticked off coming off the Coastal game, giving up all those points. They were able to come out and basically shut these guys out. We gave up a field goal because we fumbled down there in the red zone so you take out that and they were as good as it gets."
McGowens' interception led to the game's first points, courtesy of a methodical 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that chewed up 6:50. Bucenell hit a lunging Colton Korn over the middle for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-7 play to move CSU near midfield. Bucenell converted another third down by finding Holloway in the flat and added a nine-yard first down completion to classmate Qua-Vonn Scott. Ben Robinson took it from there, bursting 25 yards up the middle for his third touchdown of the campaign.
Mitchell required just six carries to total a team-high 113 yards in an effort that saw ten different players log carries. Redshirt freshman London Johnson earned playing time in the fourth quarter and sparked a pair of sustained drives, the second of which ended in a Jacob Smoak 26-yard field goal. Six players caught passes, led by Korn's four grabs for 60 yards.
"I like where we're headed," Chadwell said. "Now, the challenge is can we continue to stay hungry? We've gotta continue to stay hungry moving forward because we've still got three conference games left and then Bucknell this coming week."
CSU plays the second leg of three-game homestand this Saturday against Bucknell. It is the Bucs' first-ever meeting the Patriot League program. Kickoff at Buccaneer Field is set for 11:45 a.m.