Whether it was Saturday, Tuesday, or Sunday, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers came to the Queen City and handled business to the tune of a 37-19 victory over the 49ers. The Tops dominated defensively and a balanced offensive attack paved the way for over 400 yards.
Charlotte looked like a team that hadn’t played in 36 days as the offense mustered just 25 total yards in the first half. The absence of Aaron McAllister and Chavon McEachern was felt as Charlotte rushed for 90 yards on the day. Backup running back Calvin Camp broke his foot on the first possession of the game, leaving just Tre Harbison in the backfield for the remainder of the game.
“We just got our butt kicked and the first thing I said to them was I’m proud of them. Those things typically don’t go hand-in-hand.” Will Healy said following a deflating senior day loss.
“Coming into the game I told myself that I would enjoy every snap of it because I didn’t know if it would be my last,” Victor Tucker said. “Consistency (is missing). Just looking back at the season, it seems like we haven’t had a game offensively where every one of our playmakers all showed up. We have the pieces, we have the names to do it, it’s just all about doing it.”
The Hilltoppers took the opening possession and walked right down the field, but the 49ers defense stood tall with yet-another goal-line stand, setting up the offense on their own one. Reynolds was hounded throughout the day and it was made very clear that these teams lack no love for the other sideline.
Tyson Helton’s unit connected on a 33-yard field goal to put the Tops on the board first. On the ensuing possession, the 49ers’ special teams continued its sluggish play as punter Connor Bowler fumbled the snap, and the Tops recovered in the endzone to establish a ten-point lead early in the second quarter.
Gaej Walker fumbled on the goal line but was bailed out as the Tops right guard, Jordan Meredith, recovered the fumble in the endzone to make it a three-score game. The 49ers were held scoreless in the first half for the first time since the Bahama’s Bowl in 2019 as the tops took a 17-0 lead to the break.
A 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the second half energized the 49er faithful as Micaleous Elder scored his third touchdown in as many games to get Charlotte on the board. Just when the 49ers had life, Lance McMillian dropped what could’ve been a pick-six, leaving the door open for the Tops to add three more to their lead.
Two three-and-outs later, Western Kentucky took a commanding 30-7 lead as Pigrome tossed his lone touchdown of the day to Mitchell Tinsley from three yards out. Charlotte was limited to 4.5 yards per play and 3-of-14 on third down by a dominant Hilltopper defense.
Western Kentucky came into Sunday’s matchup averaging 276 yards and just 17 points per game. 436 yards and 37 points later, they finish their season with a 5-6 record. Pressure on Pigrome was negligible and the 49ers’ defense couldn’t secure takeaways when they needed them.
Charlotte is now out of the race for the East division crown and sits at 2-4 with one final matchup on the schedule - a trip to Huntington to take on Marshall on Friday, December 11th.
In what could be his last home game, Ben DeLuca took sole possession of leading tackler in 49ers’ history. The redshirt senior recorded seven tackles on the day, pushing his career total to 313. Following the game, DeLuca left us with some perspective.
“Can you be committed to the process without being emotionally attached to the results? We’re bigger than football players and if we would’ve been rewarded with a win after playing sloppy, we may not have learned the lesson we needed to learn. There are a lot of people on this team that won’t ever get to play the game again, but the lessons that they’ll take from how we handled this season will take them further in life than a lot of people who haven’t had to endure the things we had to endure.”
- WKU RB C.J. Jones recorded his first career touchdown late in the fourth quarter
- Victor Tucker recorded his second 100-yard performance of the season with eight catches for 111 yards.
- The Tops recorded their second-highest point total of 2020 (38 against FIU is the highest)
- Chris Reynolds eclipsed the 5,000 total passing yard mark with 205 on the day
- The 49ers have now thrown ten touchdowns without an interception over the last five games
- Micaleous Elder scored two touchdowns on the day for a total of four this season