Charleston Southern Defense holds off late offensive surge in the 42-21 win at the Fall Game

Charleston Southern Defense holds off late offensive surge in the 42-21 win at the Fall Game
Charleston Southern had their Fall scrimmage to wrap up preseason practice on Saturday (Source: Jim Killian/CSU Athletics)

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern’s defense set the tone early and often as the Gold Team was able to hold off the Blue Team on Saturday morning at Buccaneer Field, 42-21.

Utilizing a point-based scoring system that included points for defensive stops, turnovers, 3-and-Outs, and more, the Bucs defensive unit built an early 27-0 lead behind a pair of early interceptions, including a pick-six from linebacker Kyle Syvarth.

The offense battled back late in the first half and throughout the second half with Ross Malmgren, Isaiah Bess, and Darius Douglas all connecting on touchdown passes. However, the defensive line combined for three of their 10 sacks on the day over the final two drives to secure the win.

Overall, Head Coach Autry Denson was pleased with the atmosphere and efforts on both sides of the ball over the final practice of the 2020 fall season.

“The guys had fun and it was an opportunity for them to come out and compete and honor God,” Denson said following the scrimmage. “It was an unbelievable day to be out here and we’re excited on what we were able to accomplish both day and this fall, as well as the fact we were able to put in some work today and stay injury-free.”

CSU’s defensive line continued to prove why it can be considered among the nation’s best heading into the spring season as the unit set the tone early on Saturday. The trio of Anton Williams, Nick Salley, and Shaundre Mims combined for six sacks, while Ja’Courtney Snipes (two sacks), John Chiaramonte (one) and Stefan Williams (one) were also credited for quarterback takedowns over the scrimmage.

The linebackers also had a strong showing in the contest. Bolstered by Syvarth’s 35-yard interception return for a touchdown, Garrett Sayegh and Gabe Harmon made a pair of key tackle-for-losses in the contest, while Justin McIntire recovered a CSU forced fumble on the opening drive of the second half.

Akele Pauling added an interception on the fourth drive of the game as the freshman cornerback broke off coverage of the outside receiver to jump the middle route down the field to spark the defense’s early run. Cody Cline added a forced fumble and several tackles, while Deiontre Nixon and Dominic Pagano added key pass breakups late in the contest.

Denson praised the efforts of the defensive unit as they continued to build off of last season’s record-setting pace that featured a new Big South record for team sacks, as well as helped the Bucs boast a positive mark in the turnover battle.

“What happened today was just a continuation of what they’ve been doing the last few years under Zane Vance,” Denson said. “He does a great job of establishing the culture and getting the players to buy into the system. They play fast and for each other, and it leads to them having a lot of fun on that sideline.”

He continued, “Seeing the guys we expect to make plays on the field is always a good thing, but I’m also impressed with how our returners have continued to build up the younger players on the roster. We’ve been able to see them continue to develop and grow throughout this fall and it’s really a credit to them as a unit.”

Offensively, Ross Malmgren put the first points on the board for the Bucs offense with a 13-yard scoring strike to Quinn Caballero on 4th-and-Goal. Isaiah Bess and Darius Douglas both added touchdown passes in the second half with Bess finding Cayden Jordan for a nine-yard score, while Douglas connected with Tanner Bentley on a two-yard fade pattern for the final touchdown of the day.

Cayden Jordan continued his strong fall season as the rising redshirt sophomore wide receiver was targeted early and often throughout the contest. Terrence Wilson and Jamari Dunbar added first-down conversions on the ground to highlight the offense’s efforts on the day.

Denson noted the growth and development on the offensive side of the ball under offensive coordinator Klay Koester as the team continues to work on the implementation of the passing system.

“Offense is all about timing,” Denson noted. It was good to see them keeping fighting in the second half and respond from being down big at the half. (Coach) Koester did a great job keeping them together and the quarterbacks responded with leading them through the challenges of the second half to put together the pair of scoring drives."

Denson and the 2020-21 captains took time during the scheduled halftime period to address the crowd on the pillars of the Charleston Southern Football Ministry and how they hope to continue to make an impact in both the community and at Charleston Southern.

“This is what we’re about,” Denson said. “We’re working on putting together our platform to win and influence lives for Christ. We want to use our platform to be able to take a stand for racial equality and put a stop to discrimination. We’ve put our guys in the lead and to see them share our standards today – it was impressive to see them converse on the different tenets that we’ve put in place with the program.”

The Bucs are off for the remainder of fall 2020 as exams begin on the campus of Charleston Southern next week. CSU is scheduled to arrive back on campus in early January as they start preparations for the 2021 Big South spring schedule announced by the conference office earlier this week.

CSU will travel to Kennesaw State for the 2021 opener on March 13, before hosting Robert Morris in the home opener on March 20. A road trip to Monmouth (Mar. 27) and a home contest against Gardner-Webb (Apr. 3) wrap up the projected regular season schedule for the Bucs.

For Denson, the focus is about finishing the fall strong.

“We’re focusing on finishing the semester strong academically and making smart decisions over the break,” Denson said. “We’ll be getting a little downtime before ramping it back up when spring camp starts.”