CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — Grayson McCall learned a lot of things from Coastal Carolina's breakthrough season last year. He's ready to carry them into this fall.
“Now, we know the places we can go,” McCall said.
Especially with McCall in charge of the Chanticleers' offense.
McCall threw for 262 yards and a touchdown and No. 22 Coastal Carolina scored on its first seven possessions in a season-opening 52-14 victory over The Citadel on Thursday night.
The Chanticleers were among the biggest surprises last season, going 11-1 and winning the Sun Belt Conference's East Division after being picked last in the preseason.
They earned their first preseason ranking this year and made sure they lived up to the billing.
“I do think the expectations are higher than last year,” McCall said. “My job is to come in each week and go 1-0. Try and stay away from that stuff and focus on the team.”
McCall, last year's Sun Belt offensive player of the year, directed an efficient, dynamic offense that scored touchdowns the first four times it had the ball. After a field goal to close the opening half, the Chants scored TDs on its first two series of the third quarter.
McCall completed 16 of 19 passes before coming out early in the third quarter.
Reese White had scoring runs of 4 and 16 yards, before McCall, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore, connected with Javion Heiligh on a 30-yard scoring pass to make it 28-0.
Heiligh had six catches for 133 yards, his third straight game with 100-plus yards receiving. Shermari Jones also had two touchdowns and ran for 100 yards for Coastal Carolina.
The Chants didn't punt until the start of the fourth quarter. By then, they had outgained the Bulldogs 537-153.
“They are the best group of five team I've seen in quite some time,” said Brent Thompson, coach of The Citadel.
The Citadel was fourth in FCS rushing nationally last year and managed 200 yards, 100 of it coming from quarterback Jaylan Adams. But the defense had no luck slowing down the Chants. Even when they were in position to make a play, it didn't work like when tight end Isaiah Likely leaped over a defender for a 16-yard catch and a first down to keep a TD drive alive in the second quarter.
Last year's success made for a heady offseason for the Chanticleers, friends, family and college football experts telling them how good they are.
Coastal Carolina nose tackle Travis Geiger Jr. said he and his teammates take the compliments as a challenge, hearing instead how many outsiders wonder if last season was nothing more than a fluke.
“When we hear that, we think, ‘Yeah, OK, let’s go show them,'" Geiger said. “I love it.”
Citadel: The Bulldogs have a history of upsetting FBS programs like South Carolina in 2015 and Georgia Tech in 2019. But Coastal was far too potent for The Citadel to have a chance. Citadel gave up 379 yards in trailing 31-0 at the half. This is the Bulldogs only FBS opponent this season.
Coastal Carolina: The Chants have won 12 straight-regular season games, with their lone loss last season in the Cure Bowl to Liberty on a blocked field goal in overtime. Look for Coastal to keep moving up the rankings until Sun Belt play begin in full next month.
In the first game in more than year without COVID-19 restrictions, the Chanticleers drew 16,236 people to their opener — the second largest crowd in the history of Brooks Stadium. Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell loved the loud, electric atmosphere, joking that people were throwing things. “I think they got me in the back,” he said.
Coastal Carolina's Chadwell moved to 5-0 against The Citadel. He was a thorn in the Bulldogs side when he coached at Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs city rival and won all four times they played. He was happy to see how locked in his players were in putting away a team they were favored to beat by almost five touchdowns.
Citadel plays city rival Charleston Southern on Sept. 11.
Coastal Carolina hosts Kansas on Sept. 10.
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