Gardner-Webb falls to Coastal Carolina 31-27 on the road

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Gardner-Webb football generic (new logo)(WBTV)
Published: Sep. 10, 2022 at 10:35 PM EDT
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Gardner-Webb provided the press release for this article.

CONWAY, S.C. - Gardner-Webb gave Coastal Carolina fits Saturday night, but the FBS Chanticleers rallied late and held on for a 31-27 win over the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs (1-1) scored 17 unanswered points to take a 27-24 lead with 10:33 to play in the game on Bailey Fisher’s five-yard keeper. Coastal Carolina (2-0) remained calm, driving 84 yards in 10 plays to regain the lead on a short touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy candidate Grayson McCall to Jacob Jenkins with 6:25 left and was able to cling to that lead until the final horn.

An interception gave Coastal the ball back on Gardner-Webb’s next drive and the Chanticleers appeared to be on the way to salting away the game. A bad snap on third down forced a punt and GWU took over with 1:26 to play at its own 11-yard line.

Fisher connected on a long pass to Cutrell Haywood for 35 yards to give the ‘Dogs life, but his next pass was picked off trying to find Haywood deep with 1:04 left – with Lance Boykin snagging the pass to end the threat.

Coastal Carolina ran out the clock from there.

After rushing for 412 yards in its season opening win, Gardner-Webb passed for 448 yards on Saturday night against its former Big South Conference foe (2003-2015). Fisher went 27-of-37 for 403 yards and one touchdown. He added two more scores on the ground to help GWU race to 495 yards of total offense.

Haywood caught 11 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown and T.J. Luther hauled in five balls for 188 yards. Freshman Karim Page had four catches for 57 yards and tight end Deland Thomas caught four balls for 47 yards. Maleek Huggins completed one pass for 45 yards to Luther.

Jay Billingsley connected on both of his field goals, tying the game with a 47-yarder and cutting the lead to 24-20 with a 29-yard make.

All-America running back Narii Gaither was limited to just one play, with young backs Donovan Jones and Janiero Crankfield forced to carry the load the rest of the way. GWU ran for just 47 yards on 28 carries and turned the football over five times.

Coastal Carolina didn’t turn the miscues into any offensive points, but three of the turnovers thrwarted golden scoring opportunities. Gardner-Webb also had two touchdowns called back by penalties, including a costly flag late in the first half that negated an interception return for a touchdown just before the half by Jamari Brown.

GWU didn’t score before the half after that score was called back and went into the locker room down 17-10. The Chanticleers and ‘Dogs were tied 3-3 late in the half, before a 95-yard kickoff return and a short drive after a Gardner-Webb fumble on the ensuing kickoff led to 14 points in the final six minutes of the first half.

Gardner-Webb’s defense was strong Saturday night, limiting the Chanticleers to just 46 yards on the ground and 354 total yards (1.2 yards per rush / 5.3 yards per play).

Ty French had nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack and was followed closely by Charlie Jackson (eight tackles), William McCrainey (eight tackles, two tackles for loss, sack) and Raequan Ousley (eight tackles, pass break up). Brown forced two turnovers and finished with four tackles from his safety spot.

Coastal was led by McCall, who completed 22-of-30 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Boykin picked off two passes and had five tackles on defense for the Chanticleers.

The game marked the sixth time in its past eight losses that Gardner-Webb has fallen by one possession or in the final four minutes of action. All of those games came over the final two seasons.

Gardner-Webb will stay on the road next week, traveling to face Elon at 6:00 pm on Saturday, September 17.