Sunday, October 2, 2022

Comeback Bid Falls Short For 49ers

CHARLOTTE – Charlotte's late drive for the go-ahead/possible game-winning TD ended quickly when Chris Reynolds' long pass towards Elijah Spencer was picked off at the UTEP 22-yard line with 1:19 left to play, securing the Miners' 41-35 Conference USA victory over the 49ers, Saturday night.

Charlotte (1-5; C-USA: 0-2) trailed by 17 at the half, and rallied to within three early in the second half before the Miners (3-3; C-USA: 1-1) stormed ahead by 20 late in the third quarter.  Again, Charlotte rallied – and despite the two large deficits, had a chance to take the lead in the closing minutes after a pair of fourth-quarter TDs.

Charlotte WR Grant DuBose hauls in a TD
Photo Credit: Ed Conway

“We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times, whether it be penalties, turnovers, or whatever else,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy.  ”I am always amazed at the fight of this football team. I am always impressed by the character of the young men that are in our locker room. We got the ball back with a (1:26) on the 36-yard-line with no timeouts down six and there wasn't a more confident group in the country but us. We shouldn't have left it up to that. I don't want to make life hard on ourselves and have to fight back from so much.”

Trailing 34-21 late in the third quarter, Charlotte was driving deep into UTEP territory with a chance to close to within one score. The 49ers fumbled at the goal line, however, and Jadrian Taylor returned it 100 yards to push UTEP ahead, 41-21. It was the Miners' second defensive touchdown of the game.

Down 20, Reynolds engineered a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive to bring the 49ers within 13, 41-28 with 9:27 to play. He hit a diving Tucker on a fourth-down conversion to keep the drive alive and then connected again with his longtime target for a six-yard TD.  It was Tucker's fourth straight game with a touchdown.

“Just the fight of this team,” Healy said. “There were some incredible performances from our players. Chris Reynolds kept getting back up. Markees (Watts) and Amir (Siddiq) were huge to our football team. Grant (DuBose), Vic (Tucker), Elijah, and so many guys played hard and put their heart on the line tonight.”

Charlotte's defense held the Miners to a short, four-play drive that gained just 18 yards and one first down before punting. Again, Reynolds went to work – A 14-yard pass to DuBose.  A 16-yarder to Spencer. A 14-yarder to Shadrick Byrd. Byrd's 13-yard run to the left side found the endzone and suddenly Charlotte was within six, 41-35 with 3:07 to play.

The defense forced its second three-and-out of the game, forcing a punt with 1:26 left to play.

With the ball at its own 36 and nearly a minute-and-a-half left to play, thoughts of Reynolds' six career game-winning drives sprung to mind, including his last-minute heroics in the 49ers' 42-41 win at Georgia State earlier this year.

On the first play, however, his long pass attempt was intercepted to seal the win for the Miners.

“Hard fought football game and congrats to UTEP coming on the road and finding a way to get the win,” Healy said. “When we play well we are capable of beating anyone that is on our schedule. I know our guys will continue to fight hard and give us chances to win football games.”

Notable North Carolinians

Chris Reynolds (Davie) – the senior quarterback was 22 of 38 for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Aidan Laros (Northwood) – the redshirt freshman kickoff specialist boomed kickoffs throughout the evening, landing three touchbacks.

Up Next

The 49ers (1-5, 0-2) head into a bye week before hitting the road for a Conference USA road game at UAB, Saturday, October 15.