CHARLESTON, S.C. – Gardner-Webb mounted an 85-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with 27 seconds left and held off Charleston Southern’s last gasp final drive for a 17-10 win on Saturday at Buccaneer Field. The loss snaps CSU’s 11-game Big South Conference winning streak and ten-game home winning streak.
Gardner-Webb (4-6, 2-2 Big South) moved in front on Tyrell Maxwell’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Estes. Maxwell scampered for gains of 15 and 26 yards on consecutive snaps to set up the winning score. The plays capped a monster effort from the Runnin’ Bulldogs junior quarterback as he accounted for 360 of their 430 total yards.
CSU (5-3, 2-1 Big South) gave itself a chance to tie the game and force overtime on the ensuing possession as Robert Mitchell fired a 55-yard strike to Larry Jones, III. The Bucs had two shots at the end zone from the Gardner-Webb 16 but a dropped pass and an interception by Jaylan Foster sealed the final outcome.
CSU remains in control of its own destiny for a second consecutive Big South title and FCS Playoff bid. The Bucs must defeat Liberty on the road next Saturday and Kennesaw State in the following week’s regular season finale. CSU head coach Jamey Chadwell knows his team will have to play better to accomplish the goals in front of them.
“It was one of those frustrating days,” Chadwell said. “We had some opportunities but just didn’t make it happen. We just sort of let them hang around and every time we had some chances to put it away, we just couldn’t do it.”
Going forward, Chadwell said CSU must get back to its identity.
“I talked a lot about that we looked like a train wreck today but that doesn’t mean that it has to derail our season,” Chadwell said. “There’s still a lot to play for. Our margin for error has gotten where it’s slim to none. The want-to that we have to have weekly is something that I really talked to them a lot about. That’s what I felt like there in the second half is we were hoping to win and it looked like Gardner-Webb was knowing they were going to win. Usually it’s the opposite so we need to get back to that here these next two weeks.”
CSU started strong, marching 70 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead on Shane Bucenell’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Colton Korn 2:34 into play. The Bucs were then held off the scoreboard, though, until Tyler Tekac booted a 38-yard field goal for a 10-7 advantage early in the fourth quarter. A fumble recovery by senior linebacker Seth Harrelson at midfield led to the go-ahead score.
Maxwell was mostly hemmed in by the Bucs’ Blue Swarm defense in the first half but made a bevy of plays after halftime. GWU converted 6-of-9 third down tries over the final 30 minutes mostly due to Maxwell’s ability to freelance. He posted 144 of his 165 rushing yards in the second half. Maxwell was also 12-of-14 for 97 yards through the air following intermission. A 27-yard connection down the seam to Estes moved the ball into CSU territory on GWU’s game-winning march.
Maxwell broke free for a 52-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7 near the midway mark of the third quarter. The Bucs had frustrated Maxwell and the Runnin’ Bulldog attack, holding them to 110 yards, in a 34-0 shutout last October in Boiling Springs.
“He made some nice runs and throws,” Chadwell said. “You gotta give him credit. We had a plan for him and it seemed like he got stronger and stronger as the game went on and we just couldn’t contain him.”
Offensively, CSU moved the ball at times but could never get fully in gear. The Bucs missed an opportunity to extend their edge in the second quarter when Tekac misfired on a 32-yard field goal try. Bucenell hooked up with Kameron Brown for a 33 yards to key that drive. Brown finished with two catches for 59 yards, while Mike Holloway led CSU’s ground game with 70 yards on 13 carries.
Solomon Brown paced the Bucs’ defense with nine tackles and added a forced fumble. Anthony Ellis and Larenzo Mathis each notched sacks. Harrelson recorded two tackles-for-loss to go along with his fumble recovery.
CSU now heads to Lynchburg, Va., to meet Liberty. The Flames are a perfect 4-0 in Big South play and will be looking to avenge two straight losses to the Bucs. Kickoff at Williams Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.