No. 17 Coastal Carolina hosts winless UMass

Sports

Coastal Carolina rose up to meet a couple of types of challenges early this season.

Now there’s a different task going into the fourth game.

No. 17 Coastal Carolina meets winless Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.

“Just really to challenge them to play within ourselves,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said.

This will be the Chanticleers’ last nonconference game before stepping into the Sun Belt portion of their schedule.

The past two weeks have served Coastal Carolina (3-0) well. The Chanticleers knocked off the lone team from a Power Five conference on their schedule when Kansas visited. Then last week they made their first road trip, hanging on for a 28-25 decision at Buffalo.

“It’s good to face adversity,” Chadwell said.

UMass has had plenty of that. It has been nearly two calendar years since the Minutemen last won – a 37-29 decision against Akron on Sept. 28, 2019. They’re 0-14 since then.

Coastal Carolina has been able to count on running back Shermari Jones, who has added another dimension to the offense as a regular contributor to the rushing attack with two games of more than 100 yards on the ground.

“Now he’s one of the key guys,” Chadwell said. “He was physical. We’re going to have that if we’re going to continue to be better.”

Jones said the close call in Buffalo provided a good source of knowledge of areas that need to be addressed.

“We feel we didn’t play our best game,” Jones said. “We’re going to get it cleaned up and get back rolling.”

UMass (0-3) hasn’t been able to hang with its first three opponents, in part because of some rough starts.

“It’s something we emphasize every day,” coach Walt Bell said. “Obviously I’m not pushing it well enough, but that’s one of our things that matters is starting fast and execution.”

The UMass players have noticed how early deficits have been troublesome.

“We’ve started out kind of flat the past couple games. We need to understand what we are getting ourselves into,” running back Ellis Merriweather said. “We need to bring the energy when we first walk out there onto the field.”

The Minutemen are using freshman Brady Olson at quarterback. They’re relying on his continued development.

“He did some things that you wouldn’t expect a freshman to do, but he also did some things that a really young player does,” Bell said. “He’s a tough kid — physically tough, mentally tough.”

Merriweather said Olson, who has thrown for five touchdowns with three interceptions, shows good composure and will grow in his role.

“I don’t judge him for making mistakes,” he said. “He is still learning. I think he has been exceptional for the situation that has been placed on him.”

UMass is trying to get through an independent schedule that’s stocked with notable assignments, including three Power Five opponents. They’ve already played Pittsburgh and Boston College, while they’ll have Florida State, Liberty and Army later on.

So the game against Coastal Carolina, which is the first ranked foe of the season, adds to the challenges.

The Chanticleers won the most recent game against UMass, a 62-28 dismantling in the most-recent clash on Sept. 21, 2019.

–Field Level Media

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