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Special teams errors an issue for Coastal Carolina in losses
Maurice Drayton didn’t need to watch the film to identify what went wrong.
Drayton, CCU’s first-year special teams coordinator, knew immediately as he watched the blocked punt and blocked extra point attempt Saturday night that contributed to Coastal Carolina’s loss - and he doesn’t expect it be a lingering issue.
“We know exactly what happened. We knew exactly what happened when it happened, so we were able to correct it,” he said.
After all the mistakes, miscues and special teams setbacks, the Coastal Carolina football team had somehow rallied back to within three points with a little less than five minutes to play in its home opener Saturday night.
But just as quickly as the suspense returned to Brooks Stadium in the fourth quarter, it was gone again.
Senior quarterback Zach MacDowall had rallied the Chants back with three second-half touchdowns before losing the football deep in CCU territory trying to get a throw off before the pass rush closed in. Georgia Southern’s Kyle Oehlbeck scooped up the fumble and ran eight yards for a touchdown to push the Eagles’ lead back to double figures.
The plane ride home Saturday night was quiet for the Coastal Carolina football team. Some players slept while others were left trying to process what had just happened.
How the Chanticleers had managed to let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead turn into a 47-45 loss in five overtimes at Towson. How they had let this one slip away against a team that now has three wins since the start of last season with two of those coming over the Chants.
“I was just kind of trying to figure out what really went wrong,” junior defensive tackle Chad McField said of the somber return trip.
Georgia Southern sent a very clear message this offseason in hiring Jeff Monken as its new head football coach.
Four years after abandoning the triple-option offense that had taken the program to unparalleled heights and a decade removed from their last national championship, the Eagles were seeking to reclaim their identity - both as an offense and as a national power.
In Monken, a former Georgia Southern assistant under Paul Johnson, they had both a link to their decorated past and a top protege schooled in the triple-option attack.
Not that it makes it any easier to accept.
Those special teams setbacks proved to be two of the more costly miscues in the Chanticleers’ 43-26 loss to Georgia Southern as the blocked punt set up an Eagles touchdown and the blocked PAT was returned the other way for two points.
And between missed field goals, the missed extra point in overtime at Towson and the fumbled kickoff return at West Virginia, the special teams unit certainly has played its role in the Chants’ 0-3 start.
“In the course of a football game, you have several mistakes. In special teams … if you make a mistake, it’s glaring. It results on the scoreboard,” Drayton said. “It’s sort of like riding a motorcycle - you only have but one time to make a mistake and it’s probably your last.
“… I’m very concerned because I’m not happy. It’s not at our standard. We set our standard at a certain level, and we’ve got to get there. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
At the same time, he cautioned that the unit is a work in progress.
When Drayton arrived at Coastal Carolina, he introduced “wholesale changes” to the way the Chants organize their special teams units - from field goal and punting situations to kick returns.
“We’re instituting a whole new system to these young men,” Drayton said. “They’ve never had this special teams system.”
And those changes, he said, take time to fully incorporate. He told the players that at his previous stops - mostly recently at South Carolina State - it took about a full year to see the intended results after such an overhaul.
“It took time to get there. It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Drayton said.
As for the issues Saturday night, Drayton didn’t want to get into specifics other than to say it had to do with some alignment breakdowns - ones he’s confident the Chants will get fixed.
“I commend these young men for still believing and buying into our system and believing that we’re going to get it right,” Drayton said. “Because we are going to get it right.”
Upon further review
Chants coach David Bennett said after reviewing tape of the loss, he thinks Georgia Southern’s two-point conversion return off the blocked PAT - which involved a lateral near midfield - never should have been counted.
“It was a four-yard forward lateral,” Bennett said. “It should have been nullified.”
Nonetheless, he knows the Chants didn’t help themselves Saturday night with those special teams mistakes.
“We gave them some points, so we were our own worst enemy,” Bennett said. “I think all those are correctable."-
Hazel emerging at WR
Matt Hazel, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver and true freshman, was a noticeable factor in the passing game Saturday against Georgia Southern despite missing all of preseason camp due to a bout of mono.
His four catches for 49 yards marked the first receptions of his collegiate career and were third best on the team Saturday, but it didn’t come as much of a surprise to the coaching staff.
“We knew what we were getting when we signed him,” said Drayton, who is also the team’s receivers coach. “We knew what he was capable of. It’s just a matter of getting him in shape and condition and getting him to the point where he can be functional on the field. He still has a lot of things in his game that he has to work on.”
Hazel joins the Chants after putting up big numbers at North Augusta High School, where he recorded 75 catches for 1,193 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
Beset by fatigue, hunger-loss and fever due to the mono, Hazel’s first season with the Chants got off to a late start as he was not able to practice until the first day of classes.
“It was real tough,” he said. “[The doctor] told me I had to wait four to six weeks and that was like the second week of August. … It was heartbreaking, but my mom told me to just let God handle it and he handled it. I’m out here now.”
While he missed preseason camp, Drayton said Hazel benefited from being around the team during summer school, when players hang around to work out on their own and get a jumpstart on preparing for the season.
He played sparingly against Towson before getting a chance to make an impact against Georgia Southern.
“Guys are starting to respect me a little bit more,” he said of his performance Saturday.
Hazel expects his greatest contribution to come in his ability to go deep and stretch the field. As for what his role will be going forward this season, Bennett said that will depend on “whatever he can grasp.”
“He’s got some talent. He’s got some promise,” Bennett said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a dadgum good wide receiver. But he’s a freshman.”
Jacobs leading Big South
Sophomore linebacker Andrae Jacobs leads the Big South with 35 total tackles (including 18 solo stops) through three games while asserting himself as a consistent defensive playmaker for the Chants.
In addition to his 13 tackles Saturday, he also notched a sack and two tackles for loss.
Jacobs is taking a deferential approach to his strong start, passing credit to the defensive line for freeing him up to make plays against Georgia Southern and downplaying the tackle numbers in the face of the team’s 0-3 start.
“I’m still learning every day,” he said. “I’ve just got to [eliminate] the little mistakes that I’m doing wrong - false steps, missing tackles. I’ve got room to improve.”
By Ryan Young, The Sun News