JONESBORO — Butch Jones didn't like what he saw as his team made its way into Centennial Bank Stadium to start Thursday night's game.
"We walked down the tunnel before the game, too many glassy eyed guys," Jones said after Arkansas State's 52-20 loss to 15th-ranked Coastal Carolina. "I'm not used to that."
If the Red Wolves didn't have the intensity or competitive grit their first-year head coach expects, the Chanticleers were more than ready to show an ESPNU television audience what they can do.
Coastal Carolina's onslaught began with a 99-yard touchdown pass on its second offensive play. By the end of the night the Chanticleers (6-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) had shredded ASU's beleaguered defense for 685 total yards on the way to their 11th consecutive Sun Belt victory.
The Red Wolves (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) were down 31-0 before they could dent the Chanticleers' Sun Belt-leading scoring defense. They were unable to mount a running game, finishing with 18 net rushing yards, and were vulnerable to big plays once again, yielding touchdowns on four plays covering more than 60 yards.
"I didn't feel the intensity when we walked into the arena tonight. I didn't feel it and why not? You're playing on national television, you're playing against a nationally ranked team," Jones said after ASU's fifth straight loss. "If you're a competitor, that's what you want. You want that platform. We've got to figure out who are the individuals who are relentless competitors each and every day."
Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, the national leader in completion percentage and passing efficiency, was 18 of 23 passing for a career-high 365 yards and four touchdowns. All four scores went to tight end Isaiah Likely, who caught eight passes for 232 yards.
Jones said the Red Wolves made a mistake in man-to-man coverage on the pass Likely took 99 yards to the end zone just over three minutes into the game.
"A good player like that, he's going to make his plays, but we knew where he was at," Jones said. "Sometimes we missed assignments in the coverage. Sometimes there was a fundamental flaw in what was going on and sometimes good players make plays."
Shermari Jones led the Chanticleers in rushing with 113 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Jones scored on an 8-yard run to cap a 70-yard drive with 5:56 left in the second quarter, giving Coastal Carolina a 17-0 lead.
The Chanticleers struck again with 13 seconds left in the half on McCall's 4-yard pass to Likely for a 24-0 halftime lead. They started the second half with another scoring drive that ended on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Likely.
"It takes a half and we say, 'You know what, we may be able to play with them.' We don't attack anything we talked about coming in, trying to apply pressure," Jones said. "We talked about momentum. How do you create momentum? You create momentum with toughness and effort, and we weren't able to create momentum."
ASU starting quarterback James Blackman left the game after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half. Jones said Blackman, who was sacked three times, might have an AC joint sprain.
Layne Hatcher was 13 of 29 for 185 yards and the first two passing touchdowns allowed all year by the Chanticleers. A fourth-down pass interference call kept alive ASU's first scoring drive, which ended on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Corey Rucker with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
Hatcher found Te'Vailance Hunt across the middle of the field on a 63-yard touchdown pass later in the third quarter. ASU also pieced together a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by Lincoln Pare's 1-yard touchdown plunge that pulled the Red Wolves within 38-20 with 12:21 to play.
The Chanticleers' last three touchdowns came on big plays. Likely caught a 64-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Running back Reese White and reserve quarterback Bryce Carpenter scored on runs of 64 and 67 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter to end any hopes of an ASU comeback.
Coastal Carolina finished with 294 rushing yards while averaging 8.2 yards per carry.
The Red Wolves, who rank last nationally in total defense, are giving up 584 yards per game. In six games, ASU has allowed 18 scoring plays that have covered 40-plus yards, nine rushing and nine passing.
"Like they say, before you can win the game, you can't lose the game, and you guys have heard that almost every week. We made way too many mistakes," Jones said. "We can't sustain momentum, we score and we give up catastrophic plays that no team can overcome. We missed too many tackles, had way too many dropped passes tonight."
After sacks and other negative-yardage plays, ASU finished with 18 net rushing yards on 17 carries. The Red Wolves finished with 255 passing yards, with Hunt catching six passes for 138 yards, and had 273 yards total.
Jones said precautionary measures were taken with ASU cornerback Samy Johnson, who was transported to a hospital by ambulance after a third-quarter injury. Johnson experienced back pain, Jones said, and all tests had come back normal Thursday night.
Defensive lineman Terry Hampton suffered a knee injury, Jones said, and Rucker played through a quad injury that forced him to leave the field a few times.
While ASU coaches will leave campus to recruit today, Jones said the players will have a couple of days off before returning to practice Sunday. The Red Wolves have two weeks to prepare for another Thursday night home game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct. 21.
"We're going to get it right. I will meet with every player in the program this week and they will know exactly where they're at and where they stand," Jones said. "This is unacceptable. We're going to get it right. I know our kids are prideful and I expect they will get it right. I'm hoping this is a learning opportunity and a moment we won't have to experience ever again."