College Football

NCAA Football: Coastal Carolina Tops NIU, 47-41, in Tailgreeter Cure Bowl; earns program’s first bowl win.

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ORLANDO, Fla. (CureBowl.com) – Coastal Carolina used a stop at the goal line as time expired to win the 2021 Tailgreeter Cure Bowl, by defeating NIU 47-41, on Friday at Exploria Stadium. Quarterback Grayson McCall was named the Most Valuable Player after totaling a Cure Bowl-record four touchdowns and 315 yards on 22-of-30 passing.

“(Our first bowl win) is huge,” McCall said. “We talked about this a long time. We got the opportunity to come back to the Cure Bowl after not being able to finish it off last year the way we wanted to. It is great to send the seniors off. These are the guys that got us to this point. There is no better feeling then being able to send them off on the high note.”

This was Coastal Carolina’s (11-2) first-ever bowl game victory. The Chanticleers made their second-straight appearance in the Cure Bowl and avenged a heartbreaking overtime loss to Liberty in the 2020 FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.

“To go from nobodies, why are you making the move from FCS to FBS? Five football seasons later – to be a conference champion, to be a bowl champion, to be Top-25 team in the country – what a legacy and foundation,” Coastal Carolina Head Coach Jamey Chadwell said. “I am proud of the way that they competed and found a way. It is a pretty special time.”

The game had seven lead changes with the teams scoring on each of their first 12 possessions, minus a kneel down to end the first half. The first stop was the NIU (9-5) defense stepping up and forcing a three-and-out at the end of the fourth quarter, leading to a 45-yard field goal by John Richardson to extend its lead to 41-33.

The Chanticleers responded with a touchdown of their own, a 40-yard catch by Isaiah Likely, but were unable to convert the two-point play, 41-39.

Coastal Carolina had it’s biggest defensive stand by stopping the Huskies on 3rd– and 4th-and-1 at the NIU 34. On the next play, McCall found running back Braydon Bennett on a forward pitch for a 34-yard touchdown with 6:40 remaining. The two-point conversion was successful following a catch by senior tight end Isaiah Likely, 47-41.

The play of the game was made by senior linebacker Silas Kelly, who forced a fumble following a 13-yard gain on a third-and-long. The last chance for the Huskies came as time was ticking down and following a 4th-and-1 conversion from the Coastal Carolina eight yard line, time expired.

“I am just happy that I was able to make a play for my team,” Kelly said. “We needed something to happen, a little bit of a momentum shift. I was just trying to do everything I could do for my team. I am lucky that I got it out and Dre (Pinckney) picked it up. It was something that I am proud to do for the team.”

NIU was paced by quarterback Rocky Lombardi with three total touchdowns – two through the air and one on the ground. The Huskies’ rushing attack saw Jay Ducker total 146 yards, while Antario Brown gained 105 yards and one touchdown.

The USSOCOM Para-Commandos from MacDill Air Force Base flew in a commemorative pink game ball during a pregame ceremony. Coastal Carolina made history by being the first team in a regulation game to kickoff a ball with pink laces – a request that was approved by the NCAA.

BRINGING TEAMS TOGETHER TO FIND A CURE FOR CANCER
• To date, the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl has been a platform to donate over $3.88 million towards its charity partner, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).
• Of the total donated at the game, over $1.2 million in grants have been distributed to local Orlando BCRF research Dr. Annette Khaled.
• FFVA Mutual presented a check to the Orlando Sports Foundation in the first quarter. A check of $32,000 showcased the money raised at the FFVA Mutual Invitational.
• During the first quarter, SoftWash Systems presented a check for $32,826 to the Orlando Sports Foundation. The Sanford, Fla., based company has a nation-wide network of more than 250 soft-washing professionals.
• Following the first quarter, Allied Building Solutions presented the Orlando Sports Foundation with a check for $15,000.
• The Orlando Sports Foundation’s mission is to bring teams together to find a cure for cancer.

MVP GOES TO MCCALL
• Sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall tossed a pair of 40-yard touchdown passes and added ones from 34 and 27 yards.
• The Indian Trail, N.C., native helped lead the Chanticleers rally back in the fourth quarter with TD strikes to Bennett and Likely.
• He also added 40 yards on the ground.
• One of his favorite targets, Isaiah Likely, had two TD catches and 96 yards, surpassing the 2,000 yard mark in his career.
• McCall also found senior Jaion Heiligh seven times for 94 yards.

“He has developed into a leader. When things looked bleak there, he was telling the guys that we are fine. He kept believing in those guys. They rallied around him. Even the defense believed in him. We are going to score, if we can get a couple stops and we did. There is not enough that I can say in the way that he has developed this year.”
– Head Coach Jamey Chadwell

CHANTS DEFENSE STEPS UP
• Senior linebacker Silas Kelly totaled 14 tackles, including one for-loss, while forcing a fumble and QB hurry.
• Senior Teddy Gallagher and Alex Spillum contributed 12 stops each.
• A pair of Chanticleers Dre Pinckney and Enock Makozon each added 10 tackles.
• Coastal Carolina registered defensive stops on each of the last three Huskie drives.

“We had a big fourth quarter. That is crunch time. We pride ourselves at Coastal on being a fourth quarter team. In the fourth quarter, all the chips are on the line. That is when you make your plays. That is when the true character of your team comes out.”
– Linebacker Silas Kelly

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