A potent passing attack led by Ty Storey sliced and diced the 49ers secondary with a combination of trickery and execution on the way to a 30-14 Hilltoppers victory.
A 69-yard flea flicker broke the 7-all tie in the first quarter as Ty Storey found a wide-open Lucky Jackson for a Hilltopper touchdown. The trickeration didn’t stop there as Tyson Helton’s knockout blow came in the form of the “Philly Special” late in the third quarter. The same combination of players scored, except this time coming from the arm of Lucky Jackson to the waiting hands of Storey in the back of the end zone.
The 49ers took the game’s opening possession and produced a long drive: 14 plays for 75 yards capped off by an Ishod Finger touchdown from four yards out. Western Kentucky would match with a 75-yard drive of their own to tie the game as Storey found 5’9” wideout Jahcour Pearson on a 30-yard strike. The first quarter flew by with both units sustaining long drives resulting in scores.
Penalties and missed opportunities shot down the Niners hopes of snagging their first conference win of the season. “It’s kind of the same story,“ said Healy. “We didn’t make big plays when they were there, and seven penalties versus one is hard to overcome.”
Charlotte’s offense responded in a major way following the Hilltoppers flea flicker touchdown. 86 of Chris Reynolds’ 200 passing yards came as a response, starting with a 31-yard strike to Victor Tucker, and finished with a beautiful pass to the streaking Benny LeMay for a 47-yard touchdown to tie the score at 14.
C-USA’s highest-ranking rushing attack was shut down by one of the best defenses in the conference as the Hilltoppers held Benny LeMay to 45 yards on 15 attempts. Charlotte only rushed for 86 yards total on the day, their second lowest total on the season.
Western Kentucky added a field goal making the score 17-14 but missed an opportunity to double their lead before the half as freshman kicker Cory Munson hooked a 41-yarder. Munson finished the day 3 for 5, hitting from 32, 45, and 48 yards out.
The Hilltoppers appeared to be letting Charlotte hang around into the second half, but the 49ers special teams’ woes made yet another appearance. Connor Bowler’s punt was blocked by A.J. Brathwaite Jr. and recovered by the Hilltoppers on the 49ers 14-yard line. Charlotte’s defense stood their ground and forced yet another field goal attempt extending WKU’s lead to 20-14.
The ensuing 49er possession provided promise as they entered enemy territory with ease, but an errant pass by Reynolds sailed over his intended target and into the hands of WKU defensive back Roger Cray. The second turnover in as many possessions erased the 49ers momentum, and the Tops wasted no time making it a two-score game as Munson delivered pushing the lead to 23-14 with less than nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
The 49ers have now dropped four straight, and their opportunities to become bowl eligible are running thin with only five games remaining.
A major bright spot for Charlotte is the dramatic improvement in the run defense department. Alex Highsmith turned in one of his best performances of the season, (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL) and the defense held Western Kentucky to just 60 total rushing yards. This is a great statistic for any team, especially one who entered the day giving up more than 230 yards on the ground per contest.
Marcus West’s unit has something to build on as they return to the Queen City, but the lackluster offensive performance kept the 49ers out of the win column for the fourth straight week. Charlotte’s offense has scored a combined 6 points in the fourth quarter of their last three matchups.
- Charlotte was penalized 7 times for 90 yards while WKU was flagged once for 15 yards.
- Ty Storey completed 21 of his 30 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns
- Victor Tucker bounced back from his 0-catch performance last week with 6 receptions for 113 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season
- Lucky Jackson had 5 receptions for 141 yards and a score, as well as a passing touchdown on the Philly Special
- Western Kentucky moved the ball for 351 yards of total offense
- Charlotte failed to convert on fourth down twice, falling to 5-13 on the season, converting just 38.4% of their attempts
- WKU DE DeAngelo Malone had another solid performance with 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 TFL’s
- The combined record of Charlotte’s remaining opponents is (11-22, 5-8 C-USA)
Western Kentucky (5-2, 4-0 C-USA) heads to West Virginia for the Moonshine Throwdown as they will face Marshall (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) in a game with monstrous implications in the race for the East division crown.
Charlotte (2-5, 0-3 C-USA) returns to the Queen City for a two-game home-stand starting with Seth Littrell’s North Texas squad (3-4, 2-1 C-USA). This will be the first ever matchup between the two programs, and the 49ers desperately need a win to salvage Will Healy’s first season as head coach.