ORANGEBURG — If the nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were surprised by the results of the first half Saturday night as they went into halftime trailing S.C. State, they had to be downright stunned after Bulldogs senior quarterback Richard Cue completed a 74-yard touchdown pass on the third snap of the second half.
Suddenly the Chants with higher preseason expectations than the program has had in quite some time were down eight points against a team that had slumped to a 5-6 finish last fall.
But the sluggish start just set the stage for a more dramatic finish.
No. 21/25-ranked Coastal scored the games final 15 points with help from a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a key goal-line stand on its way to a 27-20 win over host S.C. State in the teams season opener before an announced crowd of 10,043 at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
Senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed for a career-high 152 yards and two touchdowns in 23 carries for the eighth highest rushing total in program history and third-year sophomore quarterback Alex Ross completed 21-of-33 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his second career start.
For a moment there, things werent looking good for the Chants.
The Bulldogs hadnt completed a pass longer than 14 yards in the first half while having success with a fast-paced, quick-snap ground attack, and Cue seemed to catch Coastal out of position on that 74-yard touchdown pass down the left side as redshirt-freshman cornerback Samson Baldwin was occupied with another receiver and junior reserve linebacker Brett Johnson was left chasing senior Tyler McDonald down the field after he slipped behind the defense.
That gave S.C. State a 20-12 lead early in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs looked primed to pad that advantage further after Ross was intercepted by junior Steven Murphy at the Coastal 35. The hosts lined up for a 39-yard field goal try, but senior LaDarius Hawthorne blocked senior Nick Belchers attempt and junior Quinn Backus corralled the loose ball and raced 56-yard for moment-changing touchdown.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Dalton Demos then rushed in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 20 with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs had a chance to regain the lead on the ensuing possession, especially after redshirt freshman running back Justin Taylor converted a fourth-and-one from the Coastal 5-yard line.
But the hosts were soon faced with another big decision on fourth-and-goal from the Chants 1. They gave the ball to Taylor again, but this time sophomore safety Richie Sampson grabbed hold of him behind the line of scrimmage and pulled him down short of the goal.
Charleston Southern 32, The Citadel 29: Cameron Mitchells 29-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 1 second remaining broke a 29-all tie and became the game-winner for the visiting Buccaneers.
The host Bulldogs (0-1) took an early 16-0 lead on a safety and two rushing touchdowns, but Charleston Southern came back with two receiving touchdowns for a 16-14 halftime tally.
The Bulldogs got four rushing touchdowns by four different runners.
Zachary Frazier scored twice on the ground for Southern.
Gardner-Webb 28, Furman 21: Juanne Blount ran for a career-high 158 yards and Lucas Beatty passed for 276 and two scores to lead the host Bulldogs (1-0).
The Paladins fell to 0-1.