CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Backup quarterback Fred Payton three three touchdown passes and No. 25 Coastal Carolina won its first game as a ranked team with a 28-14 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday.
The Chanticleers (5-0, 3-0 Sun Belt Conference) played without starting passer Grayson McCall, who had an upper body injury.
Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said the team prepared all week as if Payton would get the start, but wanted to see how McCall felt on gameday for a final decision was made.
Payton was more than ready to lead the newly ranked team.
“I was a backup quarterback” Chadwell said. “You’re great when you’re not going in and when your number’s called, you get nervous.”
Not Payton, a junior who started 10 games the last two seasons and hung in when the Chants’ offense struggled much of the first half.
“It took a while to get going,” Payton said. “But I felt pretty good out there.”
Especially down the stretch as he threw a 24-yard TD pass to running back C.J. Marable with 8:53 remaining to break a 14-all tie and Coastal Carolina up for good.
Reese White added a 20-yard scoring run to extend the Chants’ margin — and likely guarantee another week in the Top 25.
Chadwell talked all week to his team that if they wanted to stay ranked, they had to keep winning. “You don’t want to be that flash in the pan,” he said.
Payton finished 15 of 28 for 252 yards.
Coastal outgained Georgia Southern 382-218 and held the Eagles to 2-of-12 on third down with two interceptions by cornerback D’Jordan Strong, six tackles for loss and four sacks, including two by linebacker Enock Makonzo.
A turnover on downs by Georgia Southern (3-2, 2-2) and late interception by Strong sealed the win.
Eagles coach Chad Lunsford said it was mistakes throughout that cost the team. “We got outcoaches, we got outplayed, we got our butts kicked, simple as that,” he said. “There’s no way to sugar coat that.”
Coastal Carolina has won three Sun Belt games in a season for the first time in its four years since moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN: The Eagles tried to call on defense and its ground control game to limit Coastal Carolina possessions. But Georgia Southern gave up too many big plays to keep things tight.
COASTAL CAROLINA: Count on the Chants hanging around the Top 25 for a while longer. Coastal Carolina also showed it’s got more depth at the quarterback spot with Payton taking over for the injured McCall, who led the Sun Belt in pass efficiency with 11 TDs and one interception in four games.
Coastal Carolina’s five-game win streak is the longest in its FBS history. It’s 3-0 start in the Sun Belt Conference is the first time it has won that many league games in the season since becoming a member in 2017.
It looked like Georgia Southern might lose its starting quarterback Shai Werts after a hard hit where he had to be helped off the field. But a short time later, the senior was back as he sprinted toward his sideline from the locker room. Werts finished 7 of 20 passing for 94 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.
Georgia Southern starts a three-game stretch at home against South Alabama on Thursday night.
Coastal Carolina heads to Georgia State on Saturday.
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