Sun Belt Showdown: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers vs Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Red Wolves and the Chanticleers meet for the first time ever at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Arkansas. What can we expect? You know what? I’m not sure.
Chants (1-4) @ Dogs (2-2), Saturday October 14, 6:00 CST on ESPN3
I put off this preview long enough. Deep down, I wanted to pass the week in blissful, ignorant peace, without having to devote a single think to the Chanticleers, the newest addition to the Sun Belt Benson Bunch. Why? The Chants unnerve me.
Everything we know about the Chanticleers is wrapped inside a handful of games, all head-coached by a guy who wasn’t supposed to be head-coaching. We’re all dimly aware that Coastal runs something in the triple-option family, though QB Tyler Keane (with 25 rushing yards on the season) isn’t really a running option. They’ve lost four straight, but have (mostly) acquitted themselves well in defeat. They’re a baseball school with a football team! These guys are a total mystery!
When last these titans met
Never, I said!
Did you like Red Wolves versus Eagles? Too bad!
The Chants and the Eagles aren’t running twin offenses, but both teams use misdirection and multiple back options to grind out yards. Coastal relies on three RBs – Osharmar Abercrombie, Marcus Outlaw and Alex James – to generate field position. But unlike the Eagles, who get a ton of ground production from QB Shai Werts, Coastal mostly reserves QB Tyler Keane (5-9, 200) for passing roles (806 yards, 8 TDs).
Now when the Chants want to run through the quarterback position, it dials up senior QB Dalton Demos (6-5 210), a bruiser who has completed all of three passes (and a pick), but rumbled in for two TDs in the team’s only win (Massachusetts). When you note a sudden 8-inch difference behind center for the Chants, you know a QB keeper is in play.
Simply put, Coastal is thought to run a “triple option-like” offense, but it’s far more balanced than Georgia Southern’s, averaging 177 yards through the air and 191 on the ground. At times, the Red Wolves have had trouble covering both.
Red Wolves will attempt to demoralize the Chants early (IMO)
The Red Wolves are maestros of The Big Play, with four different receivers owning TD catches of 35+ yards. Junior quarterback Justice Hansen (6-4 207) is enjoying a celebrated season behind center, logging 1,301 passing yards and 14 TD strikes in only four games. While he menaced the Nebraska Huskers with short strikes, he tattooed UAPB and Georgia Southern with the long ball, making excellent use of his tall and fast receivers.
Coastal Carolina is allowing 225 passing yards per game, which is about the middle of the road for passing defenses. But the Chants aren’t forcing any turnovers, with only one pick this year. That might be because the Chants’ front seven aren’t applying much pressure, recording only 6 sacks on the year. Hansen and his pack of excellent receivers should own the secondary in Jonesboro on Saturday.
Sun’s up, Monsters up
When Sun Belt play commences, the Red Wolves defense comes alive. Is this a damning indictment on the Sun Belt? Maybe, but so what? The Red Wolves registered two picks and four sacks against Georgia Southern to open conference play, including two takedowns for Sack Monster Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. Keane is ripe for sacking – he’s been dumped nine times this season – and Rolland-Jones and LB Kyle Wilson should be very active.
Queries (and Conjecture)
Queries! Queries! Let’s pose some queries!
Was the four picks from Hansen a fluke?
Justice Hansen came into the game against Georgia Southern one of the more careful and accurate QBs in the Sun Belt, with only two picks to his name. But he threw four against the Eagles’ underrated secondary last Wednesday. Fortunately, the super-chill junior shrugged off the mistakes to throw 4 TDs. But are the interceptions a sign of things to come?
Coach Blake Anderson indicated that Hansen was only about 85% recovered from a back injury sustained during the SMU game when the Red Wolves faced Georgia Southern. Now, according to Anderson, Hansen is closer to 100% and has recovered his usual throwing zip. The Chants secondary isn’t up to the Eagles’ level. Look for Hansen’s accuracy to make a triumphant return.
Are the Chants truly a FBS football program?
The Chanticleers opened the season with a feel-good win over Massachusetts, and then proceeded to lose 4 straight, including a blowout 52-10 loss to FCS Western Illinois. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern made smooth transitions to the FBS, but most programs experience a jarring talent shock (just ask Texas State and Georgia State).
Coastal football appears to be more Texas State than Appalachian State, though the program showed fight and grit in its first conference games against ULM and Georgia State. And Keane is a solid QB who can throw the pill. He had four scores and 329 yards against the Warhawks.
Apart from the horrible performance against Western Illinois, the Chants are keeping themselves in games. The match-up with the Red Wolves will be a good indicator of just how FBS worthy the Chanticleers really are.
Can Coastal Carolina pull a “South Alabama” in Jonesboro on Saturday Night?
Troy’s stunning loss at home to South Alabama proves an old college football maxim: nobody can predict the Sun Belt! The Red Wolves could chose to come out flat against the Chanticleers, but the Georgia Southern game was a good wake-up call for Arkansas State. Don’t expect Anderson to let his team sleep walk on Homecoming.
Coastal Carolina’s chief advantage on Saturday evening is mystery. From the coach to the QB, everything is new to the Red Wolves. Look for Anderson to open the game by aggressively testing the Chanticleers secondary and putting pressure on Tyler Keane. If the Chants break early, the Homecoming party should be wild in Jonesboro.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.