Sunday, November 24, 2019

Charlotte Bowl Eligible For First Time After 24-13 Win Over Marshall

CHARLOTTE – It was an emotional week for the Charlotte 49ers. Twenty-one seniors were graduating, and bowl eligibility was on the line. The fact that former head coach Brad Lambert was on the opposing coaching staff for the night made it even more meaningful. A steady rain tempered the size of the crowd in the stands, but not the energy in the stadium. The Charlotte 49ers fed off this energy throughout the entire night on their way to a 24-13 win over the visiting Marshall Thundering Herd.

With both offenses sputtering and trading turnovers to start the game, it was the Marshall special teams who stepped up first to get points on the board. Charlotte was backed towards its own end zone on a fourth-down when Darius Hodge got a hand on the punt attempt. The ball was picked up by Joseph Early who ran sixteen yards to give Marshall a 7-0 lead.

Marshall added a field goal in the second quarter to take what seemed like a commanding ten-point advantage, but Charlotte’s offense finally sparked to life two drives later, going eighty-six yards on eight plays and culminating in a fifteen-yard Chris Reynolds rushing touchdown. Charlotte had a chance to tie the game at the half, but a last-second field goal went wide and the visitors took a 10-7 lead into the locker room.

Much as how the two teams mirrored each other to start the first half, both squads did the same to begin the second half. After Charlotte marched sixty-nine yards in a little over five minutes and eventually settled for a 23-yard Jonathan Cruz field goal, Marshall went sixty yards in almost six minutes before regaining the lead with a Justin Rohrwasser 31-yard field goal.

If the Forty-Niners were going to try and win to become bowl eligible for the first time, it was going to have to happen in the final fifteen minutes of the game. And the Charlotte offense made good on this opportunity, driving down the field with a series of Chris Reynolds and Benny LeMay runs. When Victor Tucker, who had attracted four defensive pass interference penalties on the day, ran around the left side for five yards and hit pay dirt, the home team had the lead for the first time on the day.

It was now time for the Charlotte defense to step up once again to seal the deal. Nafees Lyon’s interception with six minutes left in the game was the defensive play the 49ers needed and one highlight on a night for a defense that did not give up a touchdown. The Charlotte offense marched back on the field with a mission – kill the last six minutes on the clock, score, and put the game out of reach. An amazing grab by Victor Tucker in the end zone on a fourth down with less than a minute remaining was the final nail in the coffin and Charlotte fans stormed the field as the clock hit 0:00.

Notable North Carolinians
Chris Reynolds (Davie) – The sophomore quarterback ran for over 100 yards and a score while also throwing for a score.
Jeff Gemmell (Heritage) – The senior linebacker led the team with ten tackles, the third time in the last four games he has recorded double-digit tackles.
Darius Hodge (Wake Forest) – The sophomore defensive lineman’s blocked punt in the first quarter led to the only touchdown of the night for Marshall.

Noteworthy Notes
With a staggering defense, Charlotte held Marshall to only 230 yards of total offense, the second-fewest Marshall has amassed in a game this season. Only G5 powerhouse Boise State held the Herd to less.
Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds outrushed the Marshall offense by himself, 145 to 144.
Running back Benny LeMay went over 100 yards rushing for the sixth time this season and crossed the 3000 yard mark for his career.

Charlotte's "ClubLIT" was ecstatic when head coach Will Healy decided to celebrate "Lee Corso" style

Next Week
Charlotte (6-5) closes out the regular season on the road at Old Dominion (1-10) while Marshall (7-4) hosts FIU (6-5).