Friday, September 24, 2021

Charlotte Outlasts Middle Tennessee In Offensive Slugfest

CHARLOTTE – Thursday was Founder's Day at Charlotte with the university celebrating seventy-five years of being an institution of higher learning. On Friday, the school's football team hosted Conference USA rival Middle Tennessee.  Founders was definitely the name of the game as both teams found the end zone multiple times as Charlotte defeated Middle Tennessee in a 42-39 offensive showdown on Friday night.

After forcing a punt on the opening drive of the game, Charlotte took over at its own 14-yard line. The 49ers, looking to shake off a poor offensive performance the week before at Georgia State, proceeded to march down the field, covering the eighty-six yards between them and the goal line in ten plays, with Chris Reynolds finding Grant DuBose over the middle for a seventeen-yard score. With the touchdown pass, Reynolds tied Matt Johnson's program record for touchdown passes. Reynolds would break the record late in the first quarter with another passing score to DuBose.

Middle Tennessee matched the 49ers with their own long scoring drives in the first half, going seventy-five yards in both, with each resulting in a Chase Cunningham touchdown pass. Jimmy Marshall and Jaylin Lane were on the receiving ends of these scoring passes. Where the Blue Raiders were able to best the home team in the first half was with a Zeke Rankin 26 yd field goal. Those three points made the difference as the visitors led 17-14 going into the halftime break.

Charlotte took the opening drive of the second half and drove the ball all the way to the nineteen-yard line, but a tipped field goal attempt fell short, and Charlotte was in need of some type of spark to baring the crowd back into the game. That spark almost came from an acrobatic interception by Lance McMillan, but he was ruled out of bounds. Instead, the 49ers would have to retake possession of the ball by forcing a Middle Tennessee punt. The ball was downed at the eleven-yard line, meaning the home team would need to march eighty-nine yards to hit paydirt. And march they did, taking four minutes off the clock and culminating with Reynolds's third touchdown pass of the night, this one to Elijah Spencer.

Middle Tennessee wasted no time responding. Three plays later, the Charlotte players watched DJ England-Chisolm race fifty-one yards down the home sideline on his way to a touchdown that helped the Blue Raiders retake the lead. Two drives later, Charlotte offered its response, a seventy-seven yard drive with Calvin Camp ripping off the last forty-four on a run as time expired in the third quarter, giving Charlotte the lead heading into the last stanza.

The fourth quarter was setting up to be a battle of wills between two offenses that ended up combining for over a thousand total yards. The points would be plenty. Shadrich Byrd began the fourth quarter scoring by catching a pass and making two Middle Tennessee defenders fall over on his way to a nineteen-yard touchdown to put the 49ers up by eleven. Chase Cunningham and the Blue Raiders were not content to let the game slip away and the QB hit Jarrin Pierce for his fourth TD pass of the night to bring the game back within three points after a successful two-point conversion. Charlotte responded again, marching seventy-five plus yards for the fourth time on the evening with Chris Reynolds adding a one-yard rushing touchdown to go with his four through the air. Middle Tennessee scored again on Cunningham's fifth touchdown of the night, but the 49ers recovered the onside kick to seal the win and start the season 3-1 for the first time since 2014.

Notable North Carolinians

Chris Reynolds (Davie) – became Charlotte's all-time leader in passing touchdowns; was 25-36 for 339 yards and four touchdowns; also rushed for a fourth-quarter score.

Calvin Camp (Shelby) – the redshirt senior running back had 101 yards on twelve carries, the long being a 44-yard run to give Charlotte the lead going into the fourth quarter.

D'Mitri Emanuel (Marvin Ridge), Jaxon Hughes (Northern Guilford), and TJ Moore (Mallard Creek) – the offensive linemen paved the way for over two hundred rushing yards and did not give up a sack.

Up Next

Charlotte (3-1) travels to take on Illinois of the Big Ten while Middle Tennessee (1-3) stays in the Conference USA East Division, hosting Marshall.