CHARLOTTE, NC – The Charlotte 49ers scored 34 unanswered points on their way to a 34-20 victory over Middle Tennessee. No Benny, no problem. Chris Reynolds & co. put on a show as the 49ers pulled away in the second quarter, trouncing the Blue Raiders in front of 13,879 football fans.
After giving up 38 points in last weeks barn-burning win, the 49ers defense turned in one of their best performances of the season, bringing the O’Hara show to a halt and securing their second straight C-USA victory. Will Healy’s unit now sits at 4-5 with three games left to play, and bowl eligibility is well within reach for the first time in program history.
C-USA’s leading rusher Benny LeMay missed the matchup against MTSU with lower-leg soreness but is expected to return moving forward. Filling in for LeMay was junior tailback Aaron McAllister, and AMac carried the rock 24 times on his way to 104 yards and two scores.
Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara picked up where he left off against Florida International on the game’s opening drive with a 30-yard scramble, setting up a 19-yard touchdown strike to Zack Dobson for the games first points. The 49ers defense tightened up after giving up the 75-yard touchdown drive and held the Blue Raiders offense to only 43 yards of offense for the remainder of the first half.
Charlotte responded with three straight touchdown drives all via the run as McAllister scored twice from 2 and 5 yards out, and Chris Reynolds struck pay-dirt from 19 yards away on a crucial 4th and 1.
The 5’11” signal-caller from Mocksville has set career highs in two consecutive weeks with 96 yards on the ground against North Texas, and 103 against a reeling MTSU defense. After the game Reynolds requested the entire offensive line be available for questioning at the post-game press conference.
“Every week you see us putting up numbers, and these guys, they go unnoticed,” said Reynolds. “Middle Tennessee threw a bunch of different looks at us, and I think they need to be recognized.”
This was a dominating performance from the boys up front, and the 49ers crushed the Blue Raiders in the time of possession battle, holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes of action.
The game changed when Alex Highsmith hit the quarterback as he threw, resulting in junior DB Ja’Cione Fugate intercepting O’Hara, halting the Blue Raiders drive with three minutes to play in the first half. The 49ers focused on stripping the ball and forcing turnovers all week at practice, and they saw it come to fruition as Penn State transfer Brelin Fasion-Walden chased down O’Hara, ripping the ball from his hands and creating the second turnover of the day. An all-out-effort play put the nail in the coffin, and coach Healy had high praise for his team after the game.
“To see that effort, and to be able to get that ball out and us recover was a huge play in the game,” Healy said. “I’m extremely proud of where we are heading.”
FUMBLE!! Brelin Faison-Walden with the chase down and punched the ball loose and Nafees Lyon with the recovery!— (@CharlotteFTBL) November 2, 2019
Middle Tennessee 7
3Q | 5:45 pic.twitter.com/bo2nPXqYtu
Asher O’Hara finished the day completing 9 of his 17 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 15 carries for 148 yards and a score. Rick Stockstill expressed his frustration after the game calling his teams performance “pathetic” and “embarrassing”. Their work is cut out for them, and the Blue Raiders will need three straight wins to salvage their season and achieve bowl eligibility.
A story line to watch for the 49ers will be when the Marshall Thundering Herd come to the Queen City on November 23rd. Former Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert serves as the defensive coordinator for Marshall, and it will be senior day for a lot of the players he recruited and coached throughout the years. You can expect the intensity will be through the roof, especially with bowl eligibility at stake.
- 3 flags were thrown all game, 2 on MTSU for 9 yards and 1 on Charlotte for 5.
- Jonathon Cruz tied his field goal attempt total on the season with 3, finishing the night 2/3 with makes from 38 and 49 yards away
- Ja’Cione Fugate snagged the first interception of his career
- Mississippi State transfer Christian Roberson caught his first TD as a 49er
- Jovante Moffatt led MTSU with 11 tackles, 6 solo
- Jeff Gemmell broke the 49ers program tackle record with 268, finishing with 7 on the game
- Chris Reynolds posted a 97.6 QBR, going 14/21 for 192 yards and a score
- Kyle Corbett boomed a punt for a career-high 69 yards, and dropped one inside the 20
The Blue Raiders (3-6, 2-3 C-USA) head back to Murfreesboro to take on a win-less Rice team in what should be a much-needed victory for Rick Stockstill’s group.
Charlotte (4-5, 2-3 C-USA) treks to El Paso to take on the reeling UTEP Miners (1-7, 0-5 C-USA). The 49ers have two favorable matchups left in UTEP and Old Dominion, and what is shaping up to be a huge senior day game against Marshall with bowl eligibility implications in Will Healy’s first season.
The 49ers have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2016. This is the first game all season that Charlotte executed in all three phases. If Benny LeMay is 100% going forward and the defense can play with the same intensity they did tonight, this is going to be a tough team to beat.