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Charlotte surges to beat UTEP, 28-21

Will Healy & the 49ers notched their first road win of the season and now sit just one win away from bowl eligibility.

The 49ers celebrating a crucial 4th down stop late in the game.
Credit: Charlotte Football

Henry Segura’s interception with one minute to play halted the Miners potential game-tying drive and secured the first road victory of the season for the 49ers, 28-21.

Chris Reynolds continued his recent hot-streak throwing for a career-high 354 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as leading the team in rushing with 91 yards. This wasn’t the way Charlotte wanted to get back to .500, but a win is a win, especially on the road.

Kai Locksley came out firing in the first quarter leading back-to-back touchdown drives for the Miners. Locksley started the scoring by calling his own number, scrambling for a 19-yard score and followed that by dropping a 15-yard dime to junior wideout Justin Garret to take a 14-0 lead.

Reynolds’ third pass attempt of the day was batted at the line and picked by Michael Lewis, stalling the first Charlotte drive deep in Miner territory. The 49ers' offense looked sluggish out of the gate, and Benny LeMay spent his second straight contest watching from the sidelines as he recovers from an Achilles strain. A crucial 4th and 1 conversion on their own 34-yard line sparked a 13 play drive putting the visiting team on the board as Reynolds found Tyler Ringwood, placing the ball only where his man could catch it for a 16-yard touchdown.

Dana Dimel’s team responded with an 81-yard drive capped off by tailback Treyvon Hughes for his 11th rushing touchdown of the season. Hughes took the direct snap and plunged in from 3 yards out, extending the Miners lead back to 14 heading to the half. Charlotte had been in this situation just two weeks before as they trailed North Texas 21-7 at halftime before storming back for a 39-38 victory.

Whatever Will Healy said at the half served its purpose, and the 49ers came out firing as they scored 14 straight points to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter. Kai Locksley opened the games' penultimate quarter on fire, but the 49er defense was able to tighten up and slow the Miners’ offensive attack, pitching a second-half shutout.

The Miners opted to go for it instead of taking a chip-shot field goal which would have put them up 3 but they failed to convert on 4th and 1 from Charlotte’s 4-yard line. This was the turning point in the game, as Chris Reynolds rallied the 49ers’ offense, leading them on a 95-yard drive with a 19-yard pass to TE Jacob Hunt for the go-ahead score midway through the final quarter.

An untimely 5-yard pooch punt by backup QB Brett Kean left the Miners with the ball and 2:36 to play at their own 41-yard line. Needing a touchdown to tie it, Locksley came out slinging. He found Jacob Cowing for a 28 yard gain deep into 49ers territory, and on the next play running back, Josh Fields broke through the line moving the Miners into the red zone. With 1:10 to play it looked like this one was heading to overtime, but sophomore defensive end Markees Watts crashed through the pocket, hitting Locksley and forcing an errant pass that was intercepted by Henry Segura, sealing the comeback victory.

The 49ers' defense bent as they gave up 389 yards of total offense, but wouldn’t break when it mattered most. Two crucial late-game stops sealed the victory, and Charlotte now has two weeks to prepare as they host Marshall and C-USA’s leading rusher Brenden Knox on November 23rd.

“The resiliency of our football team showed once again,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy, whose 49ers improved to 5-5, 3-3 C-USA. “We made some huge plays down the stretch. Our defense pitched a shut out in the second half, and forced a crucial interception to end the game. It is a lot of fun to celebrate with these guys because they’ve worked really, really hard at establishing a culture and understanding what it takes to be a special football program.”

It’s happening - everybody stay calm. The 49ers have won three consecutive conference games, and are one win away from bowl eligibility. The senior day matchup will be the biggest game in program history and is the first return to the Queen City for former 49ers head coach Brad Lambert who is now Marshall’s defensive coordinator.


NOTES

  • Cameron Dollar set his career-high in passing yards with 157 on 9 catches, the most yards by a Charlotte receiver this season
  • Reynolds completed passes to 9 different targets
  • UTEP DB Justin Rodgers led the way with 10 tackles, 7 solo
  • Brett Kean booted a 5-yard pooch punt (hoping we never see this again)
  • The 49ers O-Line continues protecting the QB giving up just 1 sack
  • Jeff Gemmell had 10 tackles and a crucial pass deflection late in the game
  • Jacob Cowing was UTEP’s leading receiver with 6 catches for 145 yards
  • Both teams were successful on 3rd downs - CLT (8-14), UTEP (7-12)
  • Jonathon Cruz connected from 34 and 45 yards away, making him 7-8 on the year

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Chris Reynolds - The sophomore signal-caller broke his previous career-high in passing yards of 336 with a 354-yard performance against a reeling UTEP defense. Defending Reynolds’ dual-threat ability has shown to be a tall task as he has rushed for 290 yards in the past three games.


WHAT’S NEXT?

UTEP (1-8, 0-6 C-USA) heads to Birmingham, Alabama, to take on UAB (6-3, 3-2 C-USA) as they look to get their first conference victory of the year.

Charlotte (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) treks back to the Queen City and has 14 days of rest to prepare for a senior day matchup with Marshall (6-3, 4-1 C-USA).