Six quarterbacks? No problem. The story of Coastal Carolina’s insane season

Know the old saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans?” Coastal Carolina was going to be a pass-first team this season. Then their starting quarterback was lost for the year in training camp. And so was his backup. And so was his backup. It’s gotten to the point where the Chanticleers played their sixth string quarterback last week, but still the parade of injuries at football’s most important position hasn’t stopped Coastal from winning.

The bad luck started when starting quarterback Chance Thrasher, who redshirted in 2015 while recovering from an injury sustained in high school, was lost for the year to a shoulder injury during fall camp.

With Thrasher out, sophomore Josh Stilley opened the season as the starter. He lasted until Week 3, when an ACL injury suffered against Jacksonville State knocked him out for the rest of the year. Then it was Avery McCall’s job. He lost it that same game to a wrist injury.

Tyler Keane, a quarterback by trade but who worked nothing but holding for field goals and extra points, finished the Jacksonville State game and held steady until an ankle injury knocked him out against Monmouth on Nov. 5.

It’s gotten to the point where Austin Bradley, the Chants’ fifth quarterback, and Ryan Lee, a high school quarterback who planned to use this season as a redshirt as he transitioned to wide receiver, split time at quarterback — Bradley as the thrower, Lee as the runner.

And still Joe Moglia’s team keeps winning.

They stand at 8-2 on the year, falling only to No. 2-ranked Jacksonville State — the game Coastal was forced to burn through three quarterbacks — by a score of 27-26 and losing to No. 13 Charleston Southern 59-58 on Oct. 1.

Oh, and Coastal’s top two running backs were also lost for three weeks of the season as well.

How have they continued winning? As the quarterback position imploded, the rest of the team rose to the occasion.

“We’ve had to play a lot of snaps,” defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews told FootballScoop. “We had to pick up the slack. We told our defensive players that we had to play better. The two areas that puts the most pressure on are the offensive line and the defensive kids because the other team knows you’re going to run it. It’s almost impossible to run the ball.”

Coastal would not be 8-2 today without a transformed defense. The Chanticleers’ total defensive numbers have dropped by 50 yards per game — opponents are averaging 0.5 yards per carry and 1.2 yards per attempt fewer than last season. They’ve also gotten much better at taking the ball away; Coastal’s interception total has tripled from six in 12 games a year ago to 17 through 10 games this season, and their seven defensive touchdowns trail only Alabama for the most in Division I.

“It’s been difficult,” Matthews said. “You’d like to win them all.”

Keane returned to the lineup for last week’s win against Bryant and will likely gut through the club’s final two games against Liberty and Hampton. (Coastal is not eligible for the FCS playoffs as the program transitions into the Sun Belt next year.) The Chanticleers will then begin preparing for its oncoming FBS membership with the knowledge that they’ve proven winning is bigger than any one player. Or any six.