Charleston Southern made the first night game in school history a memorable one. The Bucs scored touchdowns on their first nine offensive possessions, rolled up 502 yards of offense and pitched a shutout on defense to rout Point, 61-9, at Buccaneer Field on Thursday night.
CSU dominated the football game from start to finish, delighting a crowd of 3,759 fans that came out to root on the Bucs in their first contest under the lights. CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell remarked on the atmosphere.
"This was a great night for this school, for this campus," Chadwell said. "We had so many students come out tonight they had to have them sit in the visitor's section- that's never happened before."
"I can't say enough about our fans and our students," Chadwell continued. "When you run out of that tunnel, and you see all those fans and all your teammates, that is just a special feeling. There is nothing like it. It was a great experience tonight and I can't say enough about it. It was a great win and the start of something for our program to take the steps we really want to; where we are consistent, year in and year out. It was a great night to be part of some history."
Junior Austin Brown directed seven touchdown drives in an excellent debut as CSU starting quarterback. Brown completed 9-of-12 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 41 yards and two more scores. Senior Christian Reyes led a 336-yard rushing effort with 81 yards on ten carries, all in the first half. Sophomore Ben Robinson turned in some highlight reel plays in the first half and added 32 yards and a touchdown on three carries. He also caught three passes for 68 yards, highlighted by a 45-yard grab on a wheel route down the right sideline.
"I thought Austin Brown did a really good job tonight," Chadwell said. "He's gotten better from where he was at in the spring. He didn't rush himself. He stepped up and made some plays in the pocket. I thought he trusted his guys. Any time you are the new guy, you have the temptation to want to do it yourself. But he trusted his teammates and let them make some plays and they did. I think it was a good start for the offense and a good start for [Austin]. He's got his feet wet now."
Defensively, the Bucs held Point to 152 yards of offense and forced three-and-outs on two of the Skyhawks' first three drives. Senior safety Demaris Freeman led the charge with seven tackles, and classmate Gabe Middlebrook returned a second quarter fumble 85 yards for a touchdown. Middlebrook's return was the fourth longest in Big South history.
CSU wasted no time in setting the tone after forcing a three-and-out on Point's opening possession. Robinson ripped off a 19-yard run to highlight a four-play, 45-yard drive that Brown capped with a one-yard touchdown keeper.
Mike Holloway added a touchdown on his first carry of the game, taking an option pitch from Danny Croghan III around the right end to put CSU up 14-0 with 6:38 remaining in the first quarter.
The onslaught continued after a short yardage third down stuff by Zac Johnston and Isaac Lowrance, as Brown added his second touchdown of the quarter on a nine-yard punishing run up the middle to put the Bucs ahead 21-0 with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
Point then put together its first extended drive of the game, moving to the CSU 15-yard line with Fortis finding three different receivers. Facing 2nd-and-7, Rufus Mason III took the handoff and was met at the line of scrimmage by Caleb Batchelor, with the CSU sophomore defensive tackle jarring the ball loose. Middlebrook caught the fumble in the air and went untouched down the right sideline for 85 yards to put the Bucs ahead 28-0 with 13:10 remaining in the half.
Robinson capped the Bucs first extended drive of the game midway through the second quarter, carrying the ball in from five yards out to cap an 11-play, 78-yard drive to put CSU ahead 35-0 with 5:16 remaining in the half. Reyes set up the score with five carries for 46 yards on the drive, before turning it over to Robinson inside the red zone.
CSU then executed a two-minute drill right before intermission, traveling 76 yards on five plays, with Brown targeting four different receivers before finding Kenny Dinkins just inside the goal line with 33 seconds remaining to put CSU ahead 42-0 at the break. Brown hit Alex Cruz for 35 yards down the right sideline and connected with Jared Scotland for 22 yards on back-to-back plays during the drive to set up the score.
Brown found Nathan Prater alone in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass to put the Bucs ahead 48-0 following their first drive of the second half. Zach Frazier carried the ball three times for 30 yards on the drive, while Brown added two carries for 18 to set up the scoring strike to Prater.
A fumbled snap of a punt on Point's next offensive possession gave the Bucs first-and-goal at the 7-yard line, and Darius Hammond carried it in on the first play of the drive to give CSU a 55-0 lead with 7:53 to play.
Hammond scored his second touchdown of the half at the 11:24 mark of the fourth quarter, capping a 13-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard plunge up the middle to put CSU ahead 61-0. Point blocked the extra point attempt, however, and Dwayne Fields scooped up the loose ball and returned it all the way to put the score at 61-2.
Point's Brandon Robertson returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers remain at home next weekend, hosting Newberry College on Saturday, September 6th. Kickoff at Buccaneer Field is set for 6 p.m.
"They've got unbelievable athletes, coaches who have done a good job there," said Chadwell of Newberry. "They are going to come in here and give us a challenge. They've had three or four weeks now to prepare for us. We'll be their Division I game for the season. They want to put themselves on the map, so they are going to come down here and play well. We are going to have to play well and be more focused than what we were tonight."