Charleston Southern entered its game on Saturday with FBS bound Appalachian State looking to measure where it was as a program, still unbeaten and under first-year head coach Jamey Chadwell. The Bucs left Kidd-Brewer with one of the biggest wins in school history.
CSU running back Christian Reyes had a school-record 34 carries and Danny Croghan III found Kevin Glears for a 15-yard touchdown with 5:27 left in the game as the Buccaneers beat Applachian State to keep their start to the 2013 season perfect at 5-0.
CSU executed in all three phases of the game to keep the improbable start to the Chadwell era going and to pull off one of the biggest wins – certainly the biggest road win – in school history.
"I'm not surprised by the outcome," Chadwell said following the win. "We've got an unbelievable group of men in there that believe in each other and believe in what we're doing and they never doubted themselves. It's a great win for us, a huge win. This is a win that will put us on the map, for sure."
The deciding touchdown came from an improbable spot for the Bucs. With CSU trailing 24-20, starting quarterback Malcolm Dixon scored on a 5-yard run that was brought back by a holding penalty. Dixon was injured on the play and backup Danny Croghan III came in to give the Bucs the lead.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 15, Croghan avoided pressure, rolled right and threw back to the middle of the field to find Glears in traffic to give CSU the go-ahead TD. It was only the third passing attempt of Croghan's career.
"Next man up," Chadwell said of the adjustment. "We think we've scored and then we had a penalty. Danny was ready to go out there and the guys didn't doubt. Danny does a great job in practice getting himself ready, and he has been getting a lot of reps lately anyway because of situations like this. There was never any doubt in him."
Croghan wasn't fazed by the situation he was facing.
"I saw Malcolm on the ground (shaken up) and knew it (was my turn)," Croghan said. "It was a whirlwind at first, but I knew our guys had faith in me. We fought too hard to lose the game so I had to step up and just trust what the coaches had been telling me."
Lost in the game-winning touchdown was a monster effort by Glears, who finished with seven catches for 64 yards and the touchdown. He bobbled the game-winner in traffic before squeezing it and falling to the turf.
"What can you say about Kevin Glears," Chadwell asked. "That play, obviously, was huge over one of their defensive backs. He went up, the guy's grabbing his facemask and he just made an unbelievable play. Kevin has been, as I've said since fall camp on, our MVP. Without Kevin Glears, we're nowhere close to being what we're doing. I'm happy for him. For him being our go-to guy, I'm happy with the way he's been able to produce."
The win moves the Buccaneers to 5-0 as CSU continues to match the best start in school history. ASU, which is headed to the Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference next season, falls to 1-3 to start the year.
"Everybody in the country knows who App. State is," Chadwell added. "For us and our program and where we've been and probably the perception of it, to beat a team of their level and magnitude will raise the focus on what we're doing and what we're trying to become."
The Bucs recipe was the same as it had been in their first four wins. CSU moved the football on the ground, swarmed on defense, and didn't beat itself. CSU dominated the ground game with 298 yards rushing – 166 more than ASU – and an efficient passing attack. Dixon finished 12-of-17 for 115 yards and a TD. CSU's offensive line controlled the game and the second half.
"Coach (Gabe) Giardina and (Newland) Isaac got those guys jacked to play up front," Chadwell said. "They said 'hey, we're going to put it on your back.' To be able to rush for that many yards and hold the ball for that long, that's just a testament to those linemen and running backs. Our running backs ran hard. I thought our receivers that got the ball ran hard and blocked really well."
The Bucs moved the football into ASU territory on all but one of its five drives in the second half, but could never put any distance between itself and the Mountaineers. Neither team led by two possessions in the game.
Dixon added 95 yards rushing on 12 carries to go with Reyes' school record in carries. Freshman Colton Korn added three catches for 32 yards for the Bucs.
The Bucs lost the turnover battle for the first time this season, but had only one. App. State's two quarterbacks combined to go 18-of-26 for 302 yards, but only one TD coming on a long screen pass.
Safety DeMaris Freeman and linebacker Gabe Middlebrook each had six tackles to lead CSU.
ASU opened the game in impressive fashion going 58 yards in five plays, scoring on a Marcus Cox run to take a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds into the game. Londry-Jackson found Sean Price for 27 yards over the middle to spark the drive.
CSU answered right back with an impressive 17-play, 83-yard drive to tie the game at 7-7. Dixon rolled into the end zone from four yards out to score initially, but a holding penalty backed the Bucs up. The senior found Alex Cruz on a crossing route on the next play for 16 yards and a TD. Reyes was the workhorse on the drive carrying eight times to keep the chains moving for the Bucs.
Londry-Jackson found Tony Washington for 37 yards as the key play on the Mountaineers' next scoring drive as ASU took a 14-7 lead. Cox scored from two yards out to give ASU a 14-7 lead.
The Bucs would pile up a 9-play, 79-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14. Reyes plowed in from 14 yards out to cap a drive in which Dixon was 4-for-5 for 47 yards.
CSU started a solid drive to open the second half as Reyes neared 100 yards following a 16-yard run and a conversion of 4th-and-short at the ASU 40. Dixon would make his first mistake of the day to end the drive as Rodger Walker slid in front of a pass intended for Glears to give ASU its first turnover of the day.
The two teams traded field goals in drives just before the half to knot the game at the break, 17-17.
Following the interception, CSU didn't flinch on its ensuing drive. Reyes bulled his way to carries of 17, 11, and 14 yards to set the Bucs up 1st-and-goal at the ASU 5. The Mountaineers would turn back Reyes on first down and hold CSU to a Mark Deboy chip shot to make it a 20-17 game late in the third.
ASU backup quarterback Kameron Bryant would find Marcus Cox for a 65-yard screen pass to give the Mountaineers the lead back moments later. Cox weaved his way down the left sideline to give ASU its first lead in almost two quarters.
The Buccaneers, coming off a perfect 3-0 road swing, host North Greenville next Saturday at 11 a.m. at Buccaneer Field.