CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Southern Buccaneers couldn't climb out of a 21-0 hole in the first half and dropped their regular season finale, 41-20, at Coastal Carolina on Saturday in Conway, S.C.
The Bucs finish their season at 5-6 overall and 3-3 in Big South play, while Coastal Carolina finishes 7-4 and 5-1 in league play. CCU earns the league's automatic bid in the FCS Playoffs and will find out their first-round opponent tomorrow.
The Bucs outgained the Chanticleers 364-354 in total yards, but had no answer for a fast start by CCU.
Coastal took advantage of a short field a few times in the first half to grab a 21-0 lead and CSU never climbed back in the game. CCU scored on TD drives of 37 and 39 yards to open the game as the Chants' defense kept the Bucs pinned.
The Bucs finished 10-of-23 as a team through the air for 163 yards, but with two interceptions. Junior quarterback Malcolm Dixon had a touchdown pass just before the half to Larry Jones III, his fourth of the season. Dixon was 8-of-16 for 122 yards.
CSU had no answer for the Coastal ground game as the Chants churned out 5.5 yards per carry and five TDs on the ground.
CCU quarterback Aramis Hillary led a balanced attack, going 12-for-22 for 1-2 yards and ran 14 times for 115 yards and a touchdown.
One Coastal Carolina built its lead, it kept the Bucs on the field, converting on 9-of-14 third downs.
The Chanticleers grabbed a 7-0 lead at the midway point of the first quarter, taking advantage of a short field after pinning the Bucs deep in their own territory. Lorenzo Taliaferro scored from five yards out to give CCU an early lead.
CCU built its lead to 14-0 as Hillary plowed in on the read option from four yards out.
The Bucs would answer right back as Dixon found tight end Nathan Prater on a crossing route for 15 yards. A completion to Larry Jones III would move the ball into Chanticleer territory for the first time in the game. A Marquiz Hodo 13-yard run would set the Bucs up with a 1st-and 10 inside the CCU 30, but the drive stalled on a missed 37-yard field goal by T.J. Higgins.
Start The Bucs would get another opportunity two plays later as Matt Hardy stripped Taliaferro and sophomore defensive tackle Isaac Lowrance pounced on the loose ball to set CSU up on a short field. The Bucs would take their short on 4th-and-2 from the CUU 6-yard line, but Briar Van Brunt was cut down short on the keeper and the Bucs would turn the ball over on downs.
Following the Van Brunt run, the Bucs defense would hold and a James punt return would set the Bucs up in great field position at the CCU 35-yard line. CSU would go three-and-out and a poor punt would set CCU up with a short field.
The Chanticleers would march 58 yards in 11 plays to build a 21-0 lead on a touchdown plunge from Jeremy Height from two yards out.
Two late completions by Van Brunt and Hatcher got the Bucs on the board in the final minute of the first half. Van Brunt found senior Corvaughn Archie on the sideline for 34 yards to give the Bucs one final shot with less than 10 seconds to play in the half.
A quick double move by Jones III and a perfect throw by Hatcher gave the Bucs their first touchdown of the night, a 7-yard throw and catch to cut the lead to 21-7, and to seize some momentum heading into the half.
The Chanticleers answered back to open the second half as Hillary took CCU down the field in 10 plays for a 29-7 lead. Marcus Whitner capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring run and the Chanticleers scored on the conversion try on a run by Austin Cain to push the lead to 22.
CSU responded with a 10-play drive of its own.
Running back Teddy Allen crashed in from five yards out to cut the lead to 29-13. The Chants intercepted Dixon on the conversion try and returned it for 102 yards for two points.
Allen's 5-yard TD run was set up by a nice throw-and-catch by Dixon on fourth down from the CCU 21 to keep the drive alive. Allen also had a 1-uard run to open the drive.
However, CCU came back with the game's third-straight 10-play drive to score on a 2-yard Whitner run to build its largest lead of the day at 38-13. The Chanticleers ripped off seven runs to close out the drive for 42 yards.
The Bucs capped the scoring on a throw-and-catch from Dixon to Prater for 37 yards and a touchdown to cut the lead to 41-20.