Charleston Southern scored 23 unanswered points in the opening half en route to a 23-15 win over visiting Shorter on Saturday afternoon in the Buccaneers' home opener.
Junior wide receiver Kevin Glears caught touchdown passes of 27 and 13 yards and quarterback Malcolm Dixon ran for a career-high 102 yards as the Bucs improved to 2-0 in the Jamey Chadwell era in front of a near-capacity home crowd.
The Bucs also moves to 2-0 for the first time since 2006 and the second time in program history, while Shorter falls to 0-1.
Charleston Southern built a 16-point lead in the first half and the defense flexed its muscle for much of the second to secure the win. Chadwell acknowledged his team wasn't at its best from beginning to end and lauded his defense for the finish.
"It was kind of a tale of two halves," Chadwell said. "We got up 23-7 and then couldn't do much with the ball at all. We put our defense in some bad situations. Fortunately for us, our defense overcame. We had some execution problems on offense. But you've got to give Shorter credit. They played hard. We knew that from the game film we looked at all week leading up to the game."
"I don't take victories lightly," Chadwell added. "We are going to celebrate it weather or not it is 16-23 or 60-0. We found a way to move to 2-0 and that was the goal."
Dixon and running back Christian Reyes – with a few timely grabs from Glears – were a tough 1-2 punch for the Hawks to handle in the first half. Reyes ground out 56 yards on nine carries and steamrolled 23 yards for a touchdown to give CSU a 14-7 lead at the time.
Dixon found Glears twice for TDs and CSU rallied after a fast start by Shorter. The Bucs' senior quarterback completed 9-of-13 passes for 123 yards and the two TDs. He also ran 18 times for 102 yards.
CSU's defense also scored in the opening half. Nose guard James Smith and linebacker Tre' DeLoach wedged down Hawk's quarterback Eric Dodson in the end zone for a safety to give CSU a 16-7 lead. One of a number of big losses set up by the Bucs' defense against Shorter's option attack.
"The defense is really what kept us in control of this game," Chadwell said. "I was disappointed to have to finish with a field goal attempt (following a forced fumble late), but our defense played well down the stretch for us. Our defense has been practicing against an offense like this for a long time. We've played two teams in a row with a similar style offense and it showed. They were prepared and disciplined in what their assignments were."
Seniors led the way defensively for the Bucs. Cornerback Damian Dixon had two tackles for loss and a fumble return that set up the Bucs' late field goal miss. Defensive end Will Hunt added 5.5 tackles, 1.5 for loss, including a stuff of Dodson on the final would-be game tying drive for Shorter. DeMaris Freeman and Malcolm Jackson each had their first interceptions of the year.
The late defensive stop, led by big plays from seniors, continues to show CSU's veterans are buying into Chadwell's program.
"I think it is huge [starting 2-0]," Chadwell reflected. "Coming off the past couple of seasons where we struggled. It was a big deal to come in and get a second win. There was some thought that this might have been a trap game for us. We ddn't talk about it much, but our guys don't have a lot of experience with being the favorites and coming out and getting a win. But to come out and do it, even if it wasn't pretty, is a big deal and validates what we are trying to accomplish as a program."
"We had a lot of heart and a lot of passion out there today. The game got tight there towards the end. Some people might say we found a way not to lose. I'd like to look at it and say we found a way to win. We're going to enjoy it, build on it, and come back and get ready for net week."
Halfback Bradley Moon led Shorter with 120 yards on 16 carries, while Dodson was 5-of-16 through the air with two interceptions. Shorter's biggest pass play came on a 50 yard TD pass to Kirk Wilson on the opening possession.
Charleston Southern takes to the road next week for the first time in 2013. The Bucs face Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
"I'm excited for it [first true road game; out of Charleston]," Chadwell added. "You get to the hotel there and it is just you and your team. You've got a chance to really grow your bond as a team, as a family. It gets us away from a lot of distractions. We had a lot of people patting us on the back on campus, telling us how great we are and all of that."