Charleston Southern rushed for a season-high 354 yards and quarterback Danny Croghan III had two rushing touchdowns in his first career start as the Buccaneers beat North Greenville, 28-14, in front of a sold out crowd on Saturday afternoon at Buccaneer Field.
Charleston Southern continues to match the best start in school history and is now a perfect 6-0, while North Greenville (4-1) falls for the first time this season.
The Bucs' impressive start continues to be fueled by solid, fundamental football. CSU had just one turnover and its defense held NGU to less than 100 yards rushing.
The Bucs weren't at their best, but they didn't beat themselves while facing a team CSU Head Coach Jamey Chadwell's helped build.
"I'm happy to get the victory," Chadwell said afterward. "I don't feel like we played our best coming off the victory last week [vs. App. St]. Give them credit. They played hard. But we found a way to get it done. It is an important one just because it moves us to 6-0. We've been shooting for six wins around here for a long time. We got to it in our first six, so I'm pleased with that."
Chadwell had concerns of a letdown with the Bucs coming off a program-building win at Appalachian State last weekend. After a slow start, CSU answered the bell in front of a sellout crowd.
"I think this was a big win because of the high we were coming off of last week," Chadwell said. "We came out and got a victory in front of our home crowd. We had an unbelievable crowd here today. Playing at home for the first time in four weeks is big just for our confidence and momentum. We still have a young team and we are still going through some growing pains. We had a lot of injuries today. But we were able to overcome it and now we are focused on our first Big South Conference matchup."
Running back Christian Reyes continues to be a big reason the Bucs remain perfect. He had 168 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, while Croghan added 70 yards and his two scores. CSU did not dominate the time of possession like it did in last week's win at Appalachian State, but it did get a big-time effort from Reyes and the offensive line. The Bucs averaged almost seven yards per carry.
Chadwell and the Bucs also got a solid first start from Croghan. He proved he could be a weapon in the option attack, guiding the Bucs to 490 yards of offense and falling forward or lowering his shoulder for extra yardage on almost every play. He completed 12-of-20 for 136 yards, but missed out on a chance or two to hit the big play.
"Danny (Croghan) did a lot of good things today in his first start," Chadwell said of his redshirt freshman quarterback. "He threw some passes about 50 yards ahead of his receivers once or twice. He was all jacked up. But he did a great job overall today. He carried the ball and ran the offense really well."
Croghan handled the situation well, replacing the injured Malcolm Dixon in the week's lineup, leaning on a controlling running game and not trying to do too much in his debut.
"I felt like was pretty relaxed," Croghan said. "It was really hot, so it was kind of hard to catch our breath there a little bit. You know, our offensive scheme and the players around me made it easy to look good. All I had to do was step up and do my job. Christian Reyes had some huge runs to get the momentum up. We were slacking a little bit to start. North Greenville did a great job. They gave us all we could handle."
The Bucs' defense used big plays to stop a North Greenville offense that had been racking up points in bunches. CSU piled up tackles for loss with 11 in the game for 45 yards and sacked NGU quarterback Nelson Hughes five times, two by reigning Big South Player of the Week, Will Hunt. Hunt, a native of Greenville, S.C., had four tackles, but both of his sacks ended drives.
"It was a special game to go up against my hometown school," Hunt said. "Coach Chadwell recruited me when I was in high school and he was at North Greenville, so it was a special game to go back against those guys. They are a good team, obviously. They were undefeated. They played hard and gave us a tough ballgame."
North Greenville opened up the scoring on the afternoon on the opening drive of the game with Nelson Hughes connecting three times with Freddie Martino as the Crusaders marched down the field on three plays, going 71 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The big play of the drive came on first and 15 at the NGU 40 yard line, with Hughes connecting with Martino on a 60 yard pass, splitting the defense for with 13:48 to play in the first quarter.
The Buccaneers answered on their opening drive of the contest, riding the powerful rushing attack of Reyes as he took his opening carry of the contest 21 yards to the NGU 45 yard line for the first down. Croghan was 3-for-3 through the air on the drive for 25 yards before Reyes closed out the 10 play, 74 yard drive with a three yard touchdown run up the middle to even the score at 7-7 with 9:11 remaining in the first quarter.
CSU would score on its final drive of the half to take a 14-7 lead at the break. Croghan scored on a QB sneak from a yard out to cap a 6-play, 78-yard drive to put the Bucs ahead. The big play of the drive came as Reyes changed direction and rumbled down the left sideline for 36 yards to flip the field and get the Bucs offense moving after sputtering for a quarter.
North Greenville threatened throughout the first half, but the Bucs' defense never broke after falling behind 7-0 and NGU couldn't do anything right in the kicking game. The Crusaders were 0-of-4 on field goal attempts, two of which CSU blocked.
CSU ground down the Crusaders in the second half. The Bucs gained at least 50 yards on every possession in the half, other than when they knelt the game out. The Bucs had 279 yards of total offense in the second half and capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive to put the game away with a 15-yard run by Alex Cruz to build a 28-14 lead with just over five minutes to play.
North Greenville threatened to make it a one-score game late, but Corbin Jackson stepped in front of a Hughes pass near the goal line and slid down to preserve the win.
The Buccaneers return to the road – their fifth road game of seven to open the season – in their Big Sig South Conference opener at VMI. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.