Courtesy of Charleston Southern Athletics
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern used a big second quarter, scoring 20 unanswered points to take a lead that they would not relinquish, winning their home opener 41-31 over North Greenville, Saturday at Buccaneer Field.
Opening at home for the first time since 2002, CSU won its home opener for the fifth year in a row, with the Crusaders serving as the opponent in each of the last three. The Bucs start 1-0, a mark that they have not held since the 2006 season, the same year that they won nine straight games to start the year. North Greenville starts the year 0-2 for the fourth year in a row.
"During the second and third quarters, we played very good football overall," said Coach Jay Mills. "Late in the game, we faded, but we were playing some new faces, both on offense and defense. We were trying to get them some experience, because we're going to need some of those guys later on down the road. The score was not really indicative to the game overall, I believe. I believe we had a poor first quarter, and the second and third quarters we played some really good football. It's something to build on."
The two offenses looked right on point throughout the game, tallying 798 yards of total offense, scoring the most combined points (72) in a home opener for Charleston Southern. The 41 points scored by CSU is the most in an opening game since the 2000 season when they beat Guilford 58-0 at home.
A.J. Toscano put up 223 yards through the air, completing 17 of his 26 pass attempts for four touchdowns. He is the first player since Sydney Bryant in 2007 to pass for four touchdowns. Only twice has a CSU quarterback thrown for five touchdowns in a single game, both coming from the arm of Collin Drafts. Four different CSU receivers had 35 receiving yards or more, with Kwame Krakue scoring once with 76 yards. Three of the CSU pass plays went for 25 yards or more, all three resulting in touchdowns.
As expected, CSU used a balanced and strong rushing attack to keep the defense honest. Teddy Allen was the leading carrier, averaging 8.8 yards per carry garnering 44 yards on five carries. DeMarcus Moon ran the ball 10 times for 43 yards, while Gerald Stevenson and B.J. Hackworth each carried it five times for 34 and 33 yards, respectively.
Defensively, Matt Hardy and Chris Kuzdale led the team with nine tackles each. Fred Godfrey had eight tackles including one of the team's six tackles for loss. Daniel Dieudonne had the first interception of the season for CSU, picking off a Willy Korn pass on the goal line at the end of the first half to end a late scoring attempt by the Crusaders.
Korn had 197 yards on 14-26 passing, rushing 13 times for 36 yards. Idris Anderson had 68 yards on the ground to lead NGU in the rushing game that amassed 214 yards against the Bucs.
"Give a lot of respect to North Greenville," said junior defensive back Chris Kuzdale. "They came out really tough. They hit the ground running, came out and came with a simple game plan, and it worked well for them. As far as the defense went, we have a couple of new people out there. We're trying to build a core. This was good for us. There's a lot of film to look at. It's good to see that we were able to fight through some adversity. In the second and third quarters, we came out and started to play some good football. We'll just look at the mistakes we made, learn from them."
Choosing to receive the ball first proved to pay off for North Greenville as they put together a 13-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up 7:33. Facing first and goal on the two after a pass interference penalty, the CSU defense stood up and forced a 26-yard field goal that put NGU up 3-0. The CSU offense struggled early, going three-and-out on their first two drives. On the first CSU punt, Isaiah Johnson looked like he would be stopped immediately, but somehow shook free and scampered 73 yards for a touchdown to make it 9-0 NGU as Joel Walton blocked the extra point.
Trying to put CSU away early, the Crusaders pulled a fake punt, but the Bucs saw it coming and stopped them behind the line of scrimmage to set up CSU in good field position. Toscano and the offense took advantage and Moon punched it in from a yard out, his first of two touchdowns to make it 9-7.
"We got off to a slow start, which is not uncommon for a team coming out of the blocks in the first game," said Mills, who was not worried about the slow start. "They say the biggest improvement happens between the first game and second game, and I'm confident we'll see that. But I felt like we shook off some cobwebs in that first quarter. All three facets of the game got off to a slow start in the first quarter."
From there, CSU scored on the next two possessions, using a 32 yard pass to Anthony Chalmers for one and Moon from two yards out for the other. Up 20-9, North Greenville finally found the end zone again, using a 46-yard carry from Anderson to pull within three at 20-17.
That score would hold until the break, and on the first possession after, the Toscano and Lee connected for 25 yards and a touchdown. Two more drive meant two more touchdowns for the Bucs as they took a commanding 41-17 lead and looked like they were ready for the blow out.
For the second week in a row, NGU scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to make things interesting. Time ran out on the Crusaders as they fell to CSU for the 10th time in 11 meetings.
The Bucs will remain at home next weekend as they face Wofford, a team that CSU will face for the fourth year in a row. Kick off from Buccaneer Field is set for 1:30 p.m.