CONWAY, S.C. — Troy found another — almost cruel — way to lose a football game on Saturday.
Coastal Carolina, trailing by seven points and out of timeouts, went 71 yards in 11 plays and scored a touchdown on CJ Marable’s 3-yard run over left guard with 30 seconds to play.
The Chanticleers then won the game 36-35 with a two-point conversion when CJ Marable ran around left end to the end zone.
It was the Chanticleers’ second try for two. On the first, Troy was called for pass interference as harried quarterback Bryce Carpenter threw under pressure into traffic and Dell Pettus drew a flag.
“Our kids are heartbroken and so am I,” Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said after the Trojans again piled up 500 yards of offense. “This is a tough one to swallow. We’ll have to respond, starting tomorrow when we get ready to play another tough team (Georgia Southern for homecoming) next week.”
Troy senior quarterback Kaleb Barker came out smoking. He led three consecutive Troy touchdown drives to open the game. After those three drives, Troy already had gained 239 yards and Barker was 8-for-9 passing for 161 yards, including a 47-yard pass to Reggie Todd for the Trojans’ third TD.
“I keep coming back to the fact that we keep fighting, regardless,” Barker said. “Kind of similar to last week, we still left some things on the field. It’s a heartbreaker. A game we needed to win, a game I feel we should have won.
“I know these guys aren’t going to give up. We’re going to continue playing. There’s a lot of camaraderie on this team. It makes me proud. I still love these guys.”
Barker had to be that good early. Coastal Carolina (4-4, 1-3 Sun Belt) scored on its first two possessions and Troy led 21-14 after the first quarter and just 21-17 at halftime.
The Trojans (3-5, 1-3) actually fell behind 28-21 as Coastal controlled most of third quarter.
Barker responded by leading Troy to a game-tying touchdown, capped with a second TD pass to Todd that covered 19 yards. Those were Todd’s first two touchdown receptions since the season opener against Campbell.
“It was good to get him some touchdowns,” Barker said of the 6-foot-5 Todd. “He got banged up early in the season and has been playing through it.
“My favorite thing about these guys is I’ve never once heard them complain they don’t catch balls — which makes my job a lot easier. There’s no selfish guys on the team and we spread the ball around.”
The game was tied at 28 going to the fourth quarter.
Troy had to punt after an offensive pass interference penalty on Kaylon Geiger nullified a first-down completion to Bret Clark. But Troy’s defense dug in and forced a three-and-out of its own.
Barker looked sharp as he led the Trojans 57 yards in five plays in just 1:49. Geiger, who caught a career-high 12 passes for 145 yards, started the drive with a short completion for six yards. Barker then hit Todd for 18 to the Coastal Carolina 33.
On third down, Troy caught the Chanticleers with too many men on the field, which produced a first down at the Coastal 23. On the next play, Barker fired a deep slant to Geiger for the touchdown and a 35-28 Troy lead with 8:34 left in the game.
Troy sophomore linebacker Carlton Martial, who had 12 tackles to lead the Trojans, ended Coastal’s next drive with an 18-yard sack of CC quarterback Bryce Carpenter. That forced a punt.
Troy knew a couple first downs would force Coastal to use its timeouts and run out the clock. A pass interference penalty gave them one first down to the Troy 26. But on third-and-3, running back DK Billingsley slipped down as he took a handoff from Barker and the Trojans had to punt.
“It was a big part of the game,” Geiger said of Troy not being able to get another first down. “It changed the momentum of the game. It’s a tough loss. We came in expecting to win and we came up short.”
After Coastal’s final timeout, the Chanticleers got the ball back on their own 29 with 2:15 remaining. Carpenter, who was 32-of-45 passing for 285 yards, rallied his team. Marable, who rushed 14 times for 52 yards, scored the touchdown on a 3-yard run with 30 seconds left.
Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell decided to go for the win in regulation.
Carpenter’s pass attempt went into traffic as cornerback Will Sunderland was tracking receiver Jaivon Heiligh on his left hip and safety Dell Pettus was behind Heiligh, who was about five yards deep in the end zone. The pass was broken up, but as the Trojans started to celebrate a penalty flag landed in the end zone.
The pass interference call moved the ball inside the 2 and Marable scored easily on a pitch around left end.
“Give them credit, they kept making plays. The PI on the two-point play hurt us. I don’t know if it was or not,” Lindsey said.
“The 2-point play was a tough play,” Troy nose guard said Will Choloh, who made 10 tackles, a crazy game for an interior defensive lineman. “I’m not going to make excuses, but a lot of guys were banged up. It was a good call on their part.
“Once they didn’t get it the first time I thought they were going to kick it. But more power to them for beating us tonight. We all played a great game, just small things that keep getting us.”
Barker finished the game 26-for-35 passing for 385 yards and three TDs. He moved into 10th place on Troy’s career list with 40 touchdowns responsible. It was his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season and the fourth of his career.
It was Geiger’s fourth 100-yard game of the season and Troy’s 10th 100-yard receiving game by a receiver this season, which leads the country.
The Trojans finished with 500 yards of offense for the fifth time this season. The record for 500-yard games by Troy is six games in a season, accomplished in 2009 and 2010.