A 2-4 start to the season was hardly reason to think Coastal Carolina would be playing in the FCS playoffs, let alone win for the first time there.
But hidden in that record was a difficult strength of schedule that paid off after the Chanticleers got into the heart of their Big South Conference schedule.
On Saturday, the Chanticleers continued their hot late-season run with their sixth straight win, 24-14 at Bethune-Cookman in the first round of the playoffs.
It was Coastal's first FCS playoff win in three all-time appearances. The Chanticleers (8-4) next play at No. 4 Old Dominion (10-1) in the second round Dec. 1.
Coastal, which has a first-year coach in Joe Moglia, overwhelmed Bethune- Cookman with 17 second-quarter points, scoring on its first three possessions.
Marcus Whitener opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run at the 13:50 mark before quarterback Aramis Hillary connected on a 3-yard scoring pass to Matt Hazel with 7:23 left.
After Quenton Davis recovered a fumble by Bethune-Cookman's Jordan Murphy in Wildcats terrority, the Chanticleers went ahead 17-0 on Alex Catron's 35-yard field goal with 3:05 remaining.
Coastal extended its lead to 24-0 on Johnnie Houston's 68-yard interception return for a touchdown with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter. He also forced a pair of fumbles in the game.
Bethune-Cookman (9-3) tightened the score with two touchdowns, a Quentin Williams 74-yard touchdown pass to David Blackwell at the 6:44 mark and an Isidore Jackson 10-yard run with 1:22 left.
It was the 17th straight playoff loss for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team, dating to 1999.
Hillary completed 19-of-24 pass attempts for 180 yards, the touchdown and one interception.
Coastal's schedule has been a difference-maker. The schedule became bearish after the Chanticleers won their first two games. They lost to Eastern Kentucky, FBS member Toledo, Appalachian State and Stony Brook - teams that were 33-11 heading into Saturday's action.
But the Chanticleers averaged 46.2 points in their final five Big South games to earn a share of the conference title and the automatic bid to the playoffs on a tiebreaker.