The Charlotte 49ers secured the first winning season in program history as they ran past Old Dominion, 38-22. Benny LeMay racked up 105 yards and two scores as Charlotte pulled away in the first half and kept the pedal down.
Five consecutive wins have rejuvenated the 49ers and for the first time in program history, they are going bowling.
“This team was 2-5 at one point in time,” said first year head coach Will Healy. “We finished 7-5, that’s resiliency. We are nowhere where we need to be, but we definitely made some headway this year.”
Reigning C-USA offensive player of the week Victor Tucker’s impressive play continued in Norfolk as he snagged Chris Reynolds’ pass to put the visitors on the board first with a 58-yard touchdown. Tucker needed only the first quarter to cross the century mark as the sophomore notched his fifth 100-yard performance of the season.
True freshman quarterback Hayden Wolff missed the senior day matchup with shoulder soreness, forcing head coach Bobby Wilder to resort to junior signal-caller Stone Smartt, the latter’s sixth start of the season. Smartt had the offense rolling early as the Monarchs responded with a score of their own as freshman wideout Blake Watson took the jet-sweep 9 yards to tie the game.
The 49ers scored touchdowns on their first three possessions with Benny LeMay and Aaron McAllister punching in a pair of runs to cap off 90 and 99-yard drives. The 49ers offense didn’t face a third down until late in the first half and Reynolds was dealing as he began the afternoon a perfect 5-5 for 134 yards and a touchdown.
TOUCHDOWN!!!! YOU CAN'T STOP BENNY!!!— (@CharlotteFTBL) November 30, 2019
Look at this run!
Old Dominion 7
4:19 | 1Q pic.twitter.com/Mzm6SOO28O
Old Dominion’s season can be summed up entirely by the final minutes of the first half. The Monarchs’ demise began following a 17-play drive resulting in zero points and a missed 38-yard field goal. On the ensuing possession, Charlotte drove deep into ODU territory and settled for a field goal, but an offsides penalty cost the home team 3 points as Jonathon Cruz missed the first attempt, but nailed the second to push the 49ers lead to 24-7. The Monarchs forced a punt on the 49ers’ next possession and returned it for a touchdown, but a holding call took the points off the board. Three plays later ODU entered the redzone, only to be strip-sacked by senior defensive end Alex Highsmith and recovered by Charlotte. Mistake after mistake kept the 49ers ahead and shot down Old Dominion’s upset bid.
Alex Highsmith absolutely demolished the ODU offensive line, racking up 12 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in his final regular-season game with the program. Highsmith shattered the program sack record early in the season and has continued to extend his mark up to 14 on the season.
Bobby Wilder elected to go for it on fourth and two trailing by 17 and his gutsy call paid off as Smartt converted, setting up a Lala Davis touchdown on the ensuing play. Life was brought to the Old Dominion sideline as Charlotte receiver Tyler Ringwood coughed up the rock, but without a clear recovery the 49ers clung to the ball and a ten point lead midway through the third quarter. Charlotte would capitalize, and ultimately put the nail in the coffin as Ringwood redeemed himself with a 15-yard catch and run for six.
These 49ers rallied to take fourth-quarter leads in three of their five wins during this streak, but today’s fast start and solid play throughout put the finishing touches on an impressive first season under Will Healy. Now, the Charlotte players and coaches await their bowl matchup and destination as they aim to check off the final box on the 2019 slate:
A victory in the first bowl game in program history.
“We wanted to build something that’s going to last,” former walk-on Alex Highsmith said after the game. “It feels good to leave this place knowing it has such a high ceiling and is going to such a great place.”
- Old Dominion was a perfect 5-5 on fourth down attempts
- Kesean Strong carried for 60 yards and a TD in his last game as a Monarch
- Chris Reynolds ran for 96 yards, giving the QB 531 rushing yards in the last 5 games
- Marquill Osborne recorded his third interception as a 49er
- Stone Smartt went 18-36 for 173 yards and an interception
- Charlotte won the turnover battle 3-2
- Victor Tucker became Charlotte’s all-time FBS leader in receiving yards
- Jeff Gemmell is the first player in 49ers history with 300+ tackles
- Benny LeMay is up to 1,027 rushing yards on the season, the first 49er with multiple 1,000+ yard seasons
Old Dominion finishes the season 1-11, 0-8 C-USA, and this could very well be the last time Bobby Wilder is calling the shots for the Monarchs.
Charlotte (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) has positioned themselves for a bowl game and awaits their matchup release coming on December 8th. Charlotte is one of eight teams in C-USA with 6+ wins, so positioning will be interesting, to say the least.