Nov 15, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, US; A view of flowers placed at a makeshift memorial outside Scott Stadium in memory of three Virginia Cavaliers football players who were killed in a shooting on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK

Virginia set to host Coastal Carolina in wake of tragedy

Hearts heavy after the unimaginable shooting deaths of teammates Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, Virginia will somehow prepare to play a football game.

The Cavaliers (3-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) are slated to face Coastal Carolina (9-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) on Saturday afternoon in their final nonconference game of the season in Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia could still make the decision to cancel the game and perhaps the remainder of the season. Athletic director Carla Williams said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon consultations with the coaching staff and the team were planned before any next steps are taken.

“We’ll make it together,” she said. “(The players) are going through a lot and we want to make sure they’re involved as well.”

Virginia has lost three straight games and six of their last seven.

Yet the only numbers on anybody’s mind if there is a game at Scott Stadium on Saturday will be 1, 15 and 41, the jersey digits worn by Davis, Chandler and Perry, respectively.

“We’ve just got to stay together and uplift each other,” senior defensive tackle Aaron Faumui told WAVY on Monday, just hours after learning of the terrible tragedy on campus.

Another player, Mike Hollins Jr., was wounded in the shooting and was reported to be doing well following a second surgery on Tuesday.

A former UVA player, Christopher Jones Jr., faces three counts of second-degree murder.

“The guys are on the road to healing, but it’s going to take some time,” coach Tony Elliott said on Tuesday. “Nothing can prepare you for this situation and we just want to be there to support the guys.”

Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell expressed his sentiments on social media.

“Our program is heartbroken for UVA, the victim’s families, loved ones and the entire community of Charlottesville,” he wrote on Twitter. “Our prayers are with all involved.”

The Chanticleers, ranked No. 23 in this week’s AP poll, have won three in a row.

They beat Southern Miss 26-23 last Saturday in their first game without injured quarterback Grayson McCall, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a foot injury.

Virginia fell 37-7 last Saturday against Pitt. Brennan Armstrong’s first two passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns by the Panthers.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, US; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Elliott (R) answers a question from the media as Cavaliers athletic director Carla Williams (L) listens during a press conference regarding the deaths of three Cavaliers players from a shooting on the university grounds late Sunday night in Charlottesville. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK

Virginia decision to play Coastal Carolina TBD as campus tries to heal

The University of Virginia has not yet decided whether to play Saturday’s nonconference home football game against Coastal Carolina in the wake of the shooting deaths of three members of the team on Sunday night.

“We’ll make it together,” athletic director Carla Williams said Tuesday at a press conference. “It will be a discussion with Coach and the team. Honestly, they’re going through a lot and we want to make sure they’re involved as well. We’ll use our best judgment. But it’ll be soon. We’ll make a decision soon.”

Defensive end D’Sean Perry and wide receivers Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler were killed on a bus as students returned from a field trip to Washington, D.C. to see a play for a class. The suspected gunman, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is in police custody and charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the alleged commission of a felony.

Two other victims, including one football player, were injured.

“It feels like it’s a nightmare to be honest with you,” head coach Tony Elliott said Tuesday. “And I’m ready for somebody to pinch me and wake me up and say that this didn’t happen.”

A vigil was held on campus Monday night where thousands of Virginia students came together on the Grounds to honor the victims.

“The guys are on the road to healing, but it’s going to take some time,” Elliott said. “Nothing can prepare you for this situation and we want to be there to support the guys.”

Virginia’s men’s basketball game against Northern Iowa scheduled for Monday night was canceled. Williams did say that the rest of Virginia’s sports teams will resume playing for the rest of the week.

Due to the ongoing criminal investigation, Williams declined to answer certain questions about Jones. She did confirm Jones was a walk-on with the football team for one semester in 2018 and declined to say why he left the team.

“There was no overlap” on the team with the shooting victims, Williams said. “I don’t know if there was any interaction outside the class.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) throw a pass warmups prior to a game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall (knee) to miss at least 3 games

Coastal Carolina standout quarterback Grayson McCall will miss the final three regular-season games due to a foot injury.

The school said Wednesday that McCall will be sidelined 3-6 weeks due to the injury that he sustained during last weekend’s 35-28 win against Appalachian State.

The timetable also could render him unavailable for a postseason bowl game.

McCall has passed for 2,314 yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception this season while seeking his third consecutive Sun Belt Player of the Year award.

Overall, McCall is 28-3 as a starter for the Chanticleers and has thrown for 7,700 yards and 75 touchdowns against just seven interceptions during his college career. He also has rushed for 1,035 yards and 15 scores.

In 2021, McCall set an NCAA record for passing efficiency (207.6).

Either Bryce Carpenter or Jarrett Guest will draw the start when Coastal Carolina (8-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) hosts Southern Miss (5-4, 3-2) on Saturday. Guest has thrown six passes this season and Carpenter has tossed four.

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) attempts a pass against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the second half of the 2021 Cure Bowl game at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall lands NIL deal with Darlington Raceway

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall has reached a Name, Image and Likeness deal with Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

McCall, a junior, is the first college athlete to partner with a NASCAR track.

“Grayson McCall is one of the finest quarterbacks in college football, so we are proud to partner with him as the first NASCAR owned track NIL athlete,” Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said in a news release. “Grayson has had a dynamic collegiate career setting NCAA and school records and has lived his entire life in the Carolinas.

“His playing style exemplifies toughness and competitiveness, and he is the ideal athlete to help promote Darlington’s Too Tough To Tame brand.”

McCall is 20-2 as a starting quarterback. The two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year set an NCAA record for passing efficiency (207.6) last season and has 54 touchdowns against just six interceptions for the Chanticleers.

McCall, a native of Indian Trail, N.C., will participate on the track’s digital platforms as well as some marketing campaigns. He also will be promoting NASCAR and Darlington on his personal social-media accounts.

Coastal Carolina is located in Conway, S.C., approximately 65 miles away from Darlington.

“I love this town and this area. Coastal Carolina kind of made me into who I am,” McCall said. “I love this school and I love the people here in the region and with Darlington being right down the road and a huge part of the sports culture, partnering with them just makes sense.

“It just helps fulfill a legacy I want to leave here. Plus, going a couple hundred miles an hour is kind of my thing too.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) attempts a pass against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the second half of the 2021 Cure Bowl game at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall undergoes surgery

Coastal Carolina standout quarterback Grayson McCall will miss spring drills after undergoing surgery on Thursday.

The school declined to reveal details of the surgery, but McCall posted a picture on his Twitter account showing his right (throwing) arm in a sling. He was posing with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

“Surgery went better than expected! Extremely thankful for Dr. Andrews and his staff for getting me right,” McCall tweeted. “I truly appreciate all the prayers and messages over the last couple of days. Be right back, gotta go attack this rehab!”

The school said McCall will be ready for the 2022 regular season.

McCall missed two games in November due to what the school termed an “upper-body injury.” He missed those games after departing a 35-28 victory over Troy in the third quarter on Oct. 28 when he was the recipient of a hard tackle.

McCall passed for 2,873 yards, 27 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 11 games this season while winning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He guided Coastal Carolina to an 11-2 record.

McCall considered entering the NFL draft after this season before electing to remain with the Chanticleers.

Coastal Carolina also said that defensive end Josaiah Stewart will miss spring practices due to an unspecified surgery. Stewart had 12.5 sacks in 2021 and earned some freshman All-American honors.

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) attempts a pass against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the second half of the 2021 Cure Bowl game at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina rallies to beat Northern Illinois in Cure Bowl

Coastal Carolina won a wild 47-41 game over Northern Illinois in the Cure Bowl on Friday in Orlando, Fla., after Northern Illinois’ last-ditch play came up short.

After trailing 41-33 in the fourth quarter with another opportunity slipping away, the Chanticleers (11-2) ripped off 14 unanswered points and pulled off a stop on the final play of the game to claim its first bowl victory in school history.

The Huskies snapped the ball from the Coastal Carolina 8-yard line with seven seconds remaining, and wide receiver Miles Joiner failed to get out of bounds after he caught quarterback Rocky Lombardi’s pass.

Time expired before Lombardi was able to get the offense back to the line of scrimmage before another snap.

The game-winning touchdown came on a 34-yard pass from Grayson McCall to Braydon Bennett with 6:40 remaining in the game, the first offensive play for the Chanticleers after they stopped Northern Illinois on a fourth-and-1 attempt.

McCall finished the game 22-of-30 passing for 315 yards and four touchdowns, and Bennett rushed for another 108 yards and two scores.

Northern Illinois found most of its success for the game on the ground with 335 total rushing yards, highlighted by Jay Ducker and Antario Brown going for 146 and 105 yards, respectively. Lombardi had 66 rushing yards and touchdown on eight attempts, also throwing for 181 yards.

The game featured seven lead changes and five in the second half, with neither team holding a lead larger than eight points. Northern Illinois scored 10 straight points to turn a 33-31 deficit into a 41-33 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Chanticleers scored a touchdown less than three minutes later to pull within two points. McCall hit Isaiah Likely for a 40-yard strike.

A failed two-point conversion attempt briefly kept the lead on the Northern Illinois sideline, but Lombardi’s unsuccessful third-down quarterback sneak and Trayvo Rudolph’s failed run on fourth down gave the Chanticleers the ball back in plus territory to lead to the deciding touchdown.

Likely led all players in receiving with seven catches, 96 yards and two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Detroit, MI, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies head coach Thomas Hammock holds up the trophy with his team after winning the MAC Championship Game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina looks to knock off MAC champ NIU in Cure Bowl

The bowl season kicks off Friday as two teams especially hungry for a bowl victory meet in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl at Orlando.

Coastal Carolina (10-2) is seeking its first bowl victory after losing in its initial bowl appearance last season in Orlando.

Northern Illinois (9-4) bounced back from a 0-6 record last season and is playing in a bowl for the first time since 2018.

The Chanticleers are used to making history since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference in 2017. They have been ranked in the Top 25 and won the Sun Belt title last season, but followed that with a 37-34 loss to Liberty in the Cure Bowl last year — their only defeat of the season.

“It’s another great opportunity for us to get our first bowl win ever,” senior defensive tackle C.J. Brewer said of this year’s game. “Everybody is focused and everybody is locked in. We’re on a mission.”

Coastal Carolina, which was ranked as high as No. 14 earlier this season, would post its second consecutive 11-victory season by beating the Huskies.

“We wanted to (get the first bowl win) last year,” senior offensive lineman Trey Carter said, “but we’re very excited for this year’s opportunity and that would be a great way to cap off our careers here.”

The Chanticleers average 40.4 points per game and allow 20 points per contest. They average 261.8 passing yards and 231.3 rushing yards per game. Three running backs on the team have each gained more than 500 yards.

On defense, Coastal Carolina holds teams to 325 yards — 133.9 rushing and 191.1 passing — and has recorded 32 sacks.

Huskies third-year coach Thomas Hammock is making his first bowl trip since 2013, when he was an assistant with Wisconsin.

“It’s been about eight years since I’ve had a bowl experience,” Hammock told the Orlando Sentinel. “So, just going through the logistics, I realized how tough it is for people in our operations department. More power to them.”

Northern Illinois has a quick turnaround, having beaten Kent State on Dec. 4 in the MAC championship game.

“Before the MAC championship game, we had about 10 days of preparation,” Hammock said, “so this is very similar. We were able to put a schedule in place to give our kids some time off to get their bodies back and get the practice and the work in that we need.”

The Huskies average 422.2 yards per game — 234.3 rushing and 187.8 passing. They are 10th in the FBS in average time of possession 33:03 in time of possession. They have five runners who have gained more than 400 yards this season.

Northern Illinois is allowing 32.7 points and 447.7 yards per game — 232.1 passing and 215.6 rushing.

Wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph said the Huskies coaches have treated each game exactly the same this season.

“They’ve never changed the message regardless of if it was the MAC championship or a regular-season game,” he said. “This week we’re trying to go 1-0.”

Northern Illinois, which has just eight seniors, is the first MAC team to play in the Cure Bowl and will try to end a six-game losing streak in bowls.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) pror to a game against the Troy Trojans at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall out indefinitely

Coastal Carolina star quarterback Grayson McCall was ruled out of Saturday night’s game at Georgia Southern with the school also declaring he is out indefinitely with an “upper-body injury.”

The school made the announcement approximately 75 minutes prior to Saturday’s contest.

Bryce Carpenter started in McCall’s place. Carpenter has thrown 19 passes — two for touchdowns — this season.

McCall departed last week’s 35-28 victory over Troy in the third quarter after he was the recipient of a hard tackle.

McCall has passed for 2,063 yards, 17 touchdowns and two interceptions this season while helping the Chanticleers to a 7-1 start.

Last season, McCall passed for 2,400 yards with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions and was Sun Belt Player of the year as Coastal Carolina went 11-1.

–Field Level Media

Oct 20, 2021; Boone, North Carolina, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers head coach Jamey Chadwell (left) talks with an official before the game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Once-beaten No. 21 Coastal Carolina meets Georgia Southern

An aggressive mindset is important for No. 21 Coastal Carolina.

The Chanticleers verified that with some key plays in their most recent game, a 35-28 victory over Troy last week. They want to continue that as they hit the road for the first time since their only loss, which came Oct. 20 vs. Appalachian State, 30-27.

Coastal Carolina will play Georgia Southern on Saturday night in Statesboro, Ga.

“You’re trying to show people that if you put your mind together for a common purpose,” good things can happen, Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said.

So Coastal Carolina (7-1, 3-1 Sun Belt) could be back on track for the final month of the season.

Chadwell said it was important for the team to play with more freedom to alleviate pressure that might have been brewing with an undefeated record.

“You control what you can control,” Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall said. “We just try to get better every day.”

Georgia Southern (2-6, 1-4) could use a boost of confidence. The Eagles have lost three games in a row — most recently giving up a touchdown in the final minute of a 21-14 loss to Georgia State.

The Eagles have gone through a coaching change and on-field struggles. They’re determined to make something positive of the season.

“The overall vibe in the locker room is pretty much like it was Week 1,” safety Justin Birdsong said. “Just ready to play and do everything we can get in the swing of things.”

Interim coach Kevin Whitley said the Eagles need to stay the course.

“Greatness comes at a cost,” he said. “I want guys who love football. Guys who put the extra work in to be successful.”

On Tuesday, the program announced it has hired Clay Helton as its next permanent head coach. He reportedly will begin working behind the scenes while Whitley remains the on-field coach the remainder of the season.

Meanwhile, the Chanticleers have shaken off the sting of their defeat to Appalachian State.

“We were hurting after that loss,” Chadwell said. “Some of the swag, some of the confidence was a challenge.”

So now they’re in the process of building that back. Coastal Carolina still can win the East Division and land a spot in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, but another Appalachian State loss would be required for that to happen. In the meantime, the Chanticleers must uphold their part by winning the rest of their games.

The Chanticleers didn’t run up another huge point total, but efficiency counted for something in the Troy game. They were 10 of 17 on third-down conversions.

“We definitely have some stuff to work on,” McCall said.

Jaivon Heiligh is coming off his 10th career 100-yard receiving game, setting a program record. Shermari Jones has rushed for two touchdowns in three different games this season.

The big-play capability has been on display for the Chanticleers. They have eight touchdown plays of 50 or more yards in their past three games.

Georgia Southern leads the series 5-2, though Coastal Carolina won 28-14 last year at home.

This is Coastal Carolina’s lone road assignment in an upcoming three-game stretch. The Chanticleers have played midweek games in their last three outings.

The only previous ranked opponent to visit Paulson Stadium — at the Football Bowl Subdivision level — was Appalachian State in 2018. The Eagles pulled the upset that day for one of two victories against Top 25 FBS teams in 21 all-time matchups.

For Georgia Southern, this could begin a three-game stretch with two Top 25 opponents because in two weeks there’s a visit to Brigham Young, currently ranked No. 15.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh (6) catches a pass against Troy Trojans safety Dell Pettus (31) during the first half at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Grayson McCall guides No. 24 Coastal Carolina past Troy

Grayson McCall threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 24 Coastal Carolina pulled out a 35-28 victory against Troy on Thursday in Conway, S.C., bouncing back from its first loss of the season eight nights earlier.

The Chanticleers (7-1, 3-1 Sun Belt Conference) received two rushing touchdowns from Shermari Jones.

McCall completed 14 of 26 passes for 294 yards with an interception. Jones ran for 95 yards on 14 carries.

The Chanticleers fell 30-27 at Appalachian State last week, losing control of their own destiny in the conference’s East Division.

Quarterback Gunnar Watson threw three touchdown passes for Troy (4-4, 2-2), which arrived on a two-game winning streak. He was 17-for-30 for 225 yards. Teammate Kimani Vidal ran for 142 yards and a score on 22 attempts.

Coastal Carolina took its second 14-point lead of the game after the midway mark of the third quarter when Jones ran for a 4-yard touchdown.

Troy responded with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that was capped by Vidal’s 5-yard run.

Jones’ 54-yard touchdown run made it a two-possession game again early in the fourth quarte.

The Trojans, who punted on their two previous possessions, struck again on Watson’s 18-yard pass play to Tez Johnson with 4:52 to play.

Aided by a fourth-down conversion, Coastal Carolina kept the ball until giving possession back to Troy on a punt with 25 seconds to play.

On the next play, Watson was sacked by Josaiah Stewart and fumbled the ball, with the Chanticleers’ Jeffrey Gunter recovering to seal the win.

McCall got Coastal Carolina on the board with a 2-yard run late in the first quarter. His two second-quarter touchdowns throws went for 66 yards to Jaivon Heiligh and for 71 yards to Braydon Bennett.

Heiligh finished with five catches for 116 yards.

Watson responded for the Trojans with a 42-yard scoring pass to Jabre Barber later in the second quarter.

The Chanticleers moved into Troy territory with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, but McCall was intercepted by Reddy Steward.

Troy opened the scoring on Watson’s 11-yard pass to Deyunkrea Lewis.

–Field Level Media