Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Ross amassed 404 yards of total offense in his first career start and passed for three touchdowns as the Chanticleers (5-4, 3-1 Big South) won their third straight.
The two teams combined for 1,143 yards of total offense in a track meet of a game, with each rushing for more than 200 yards and passing for more than 300 yards.
Coastal Carolina led 27-20 at the half after DeMario Bennett outran the GWU defense for a 60-yard touchdown connection with Ross with 4:15 to play before the break, and the Chanticleers jumped up 34-20 on an 81-yard hookup from Ross to Niccolo Mastromatteo with 11:43 to go in the third quarter.
Gardner-Webb came storming back, however, getting a five-yard connection from Lucas Beatty to Kenny Cook and a six-yard run from Juanne Blount. GWU missed its second extra point of the game - the fourth combined by both teams - to leave the score 34-33 in favor of the Chanticleers with 4:30 to play in the third quarter.
Coastal Carolina got the ball back on a punt as time expired in the third, and started its first drive of the fourth quarter at midfield after a 20-yard return by Mastromatteo. Lorenzo Taliaferro capped that 10-play march with a seven-yard run to put the visitors up 41-33 with 11:48.
An interception by Pernell Williams set Coastal Carolina up at the Gardner-Webb 33 on the next series, and Marcus Whitener darted in from the 10 for a 48-33 advantage with 8:32 to play. Another interception halted Gardner-Webb's next drive at the Chants' 41-yard line - and Whitener put the game away with a 39-yard dash to paydirt for the final margin with 3:24 to go.
Gardner-Webb finished the afternoon with a season-high 547 yards of total offense on just 69 plays (7.9 yards per play) and piled up 21 first downs.
Beatty finished 22-of-32 for 321 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions - hitting the 300-yard mark through the air for the fourth time in 2012. The Charlotte, N.C., sophomore is the first Gardner-Webb quarterback to top the 2,000-mark (2,143 yards) since Stan Doolittle in 2009.
Cook was Beatty's favorite target Saturday, catching eight passes for 119 yards and two scores - his second game in a row with multiple touchdown grabs. Carlton Heard had four catches for 79 yards and Seth Cranfill tied the Big South's single-season receptions mark for a tight end with one catch - giving him 34 for the season.
Cook's 10-yard reception from Beatty in the first quarter staked Gardner-Webb to a 7-0 lead.
Kenny Little put Gardner-Webb up 13-6 with a career-long 78-yard run in a wild first quarter, and finished with 152 yards and two scores on 18 carries. Little added 25 yards on three receptions to finish with 177 all-purpose yards.
Tanner Burch paced Gardner-Webb's defense with 11 total tackles (eight solo). Brian Wittenberger added seven stops and an interception.
Coastal Carolina amassed a season-high 596 yards of total offense (254 rushing), with Ross completing 16-of-30 passes for 342 yards and three scores - and rushing 13 times for 62 yards. Whitener led the ground game with six carries for 79 yards - all in the fourth quarter - and Jeremy Height balanced that effort with 65 yards and a score himself on nine carries. Taliaferro had 48 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Quinn Backus (12 tackles) and Tyler McCarthy (11 total tackles, PBU) paced Coastal's defensive stat sheet. Ladarius Hawthorne added nine tackles and an interception.
Gardner-Webb hits the road for the final time next weekend, traveling to face Charleston Southern at 1:30 pm. The game is set to air on ESPN3 as the Big South's BB&T Game of the Week.
Coastal Carolina travels to Presbyterian next week for a 1:00 pm kickoff in Clinton, S.C.