By PETE IACOBELLI
CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Coastal Carolina’s Trey Carter was fed up hearing how his team couldn’t win, and certainly wouldn’t hold up against the offensive juggernaut of BYU and quarterback Zach Wilson.
“If you watch the game, you see we can,” Carter said with a grin.
The Chanticleers continued their perfect breakout season with a 22-17 victory over the eighth-ranked Cougars in a short-notice showdown of 9-0 teams Saturday night.
Fittingly, it took a final stop by freshman safety Mateo Sudipo on BYU’s Dax Milne a yard from the goal line as time ran out in the Chants’ aptly named “Victory” package.
“He deserves it,” linebacker Jeffrey Gunter said of the freshman. “He works hard.”
The Cougars (9-1, No. 13 CFP) were a mid-week fill-in, traveling more than 2,200 miles to the South Carolina coast and eagerly stepping in after No. 25 Liberty had to back out of the game Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns.
It sure looked like an uphill climb for Coastal (10-0), the Sun Belt East champs, as BYU entered with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the country at more than 47 points a game.
The Cougars (CFP No. 13) were looking to boost their resume for the College Football Playoff selection committee in hopes of playing in a major bowl game.
But the Chanticleers controlled the clock with three long touchdown drives and made plays when it counted — none bigger than when the freshman safety Sudipo corralled Milne a few steps from the end zone. It will go down as a 17-yard completion, but the Cougars needed 18 on their final play.
That sealed Coastal Carolina’s biggest victory in the program’s four FBS seasons. And now, it’s the Cougars dreaming of New Year’s Six bowls to come.
“It was the best feelings I’d ever felt,” Gunter said.
Wilson was 19 of 30 for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Cougars defense, which had allowed less than 90 yards rushing a game coming in, was pounded by Coastal Carolina for 281 yards. CJ Marable rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns for the Chanticleers.
“We’ve got a tough, tough scrappy offensive line. We’re not huge guys,” said the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Carter. “But we’re going to get after you.”
It was a hectic week for Coastal, too, coach Jamey Chadwell said, in changing opponents and game plans so late in a game week.
And the Chanticleers, he said, were given little chance of success.
“One thing I know about our football team, if you slight us, we use that as motivation,” Chadwell said.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said his team had one goal going forward: “Focusing on improving and making sure we’re at our best next week against San Diego State.”
At least the Cougars should get full week of focus on their opponent.
The Chanticleers put together the longest drive in program history going 94 yards on 17 plays over 9:05 of the opening quarter to start the scoring as Marable, who accounted for 39 yards on the series, finished with a 5-yard TD run.
It took Wilson and the Cougars just 1:15 to respond as Tyson Allgeier broke through for a 42-yard scoring run.
Again, Coastal took its time on the way to the end zone with an 11-play, 5:54 series that ended on Reese White’s 1-yard run.
Once more, Wilson got it back in a hurry, covering 94 yards on six plays including his 41 yard scoring pass to Dax Milne, who spun around to remain inbounds then avoided three Coastal Carolina defenders for the score and a 14-13 lead.
Even though these teams had never met, there was plenty of emotion and chippy play.
It turned ugly right before halftime when Wilson’s Hail Mary pass was intercepted at the goal line. But Coastal Carolina linebackers Gunter and Teddy Gallagher kept blocking and hitting Wilson after the interception. The two got Wilson to the ground and when Wilson got up, Gunter hit him again.
Both teams rushed to the spot before coaches and officials separated the scrum and sent both teams to the locker room.
No flags were thrown. Sitake said the officials told him that the blocks on Wilson were clean and the coach chose to not dwell on it and concentrate on the second half.
BYU: The long trip may have thrown the Cougars out of their rhythm. They were held to just a field goal and 76 yards in the final 30 minutes.
Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers pulled off the latest milestone in a season full of them. They beat their highest ranked opponent in FBS history and topped a ranked opponent for the second time this season.
Count on Coastal Carolina moving up if there’s any room in the rankings. Expect BYU to slide despite going the extra mile — or 2,200 miles — to get in another game in this coronavirus-affected season.
Chadwell didn’t understand why his Sun Belt East champs had a game to play at Troy (postponed from last month) on Dec. 12 while West champs No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette have next week off before playing the title game. “How’s that fair? Have y’all thought about that,” Chadwell said.
BYU closes its regular season at home against San Diego State next Saturday.
Coastal Carolina travels to Troy next Saturday to make up a game postponed in November. The Sun Belt title game against Louisiana-Lafayette looms Dec. 19.