Charlotte battled through a tight first half before host team WKU (5-2; 4-0 C-USA) pulled away in the second to remain unbeaten in league play, 30-14, on Saturday, Oct. 19. The game ends a two game road trip for the 49ers (2-5; 0-3 C-USA)
"Once we did settle in and did make some corrections and guys like Jonnie Pitman and those guys were comfortable with what we were doing, I thought we did some really good things on defense," said 49ers Head Coach Will Healy. "I've never had a concern about how we were going to be defensively; never had a concern about how our players play or how our coaches coach. Today I think you saw a little more of what the standard should be here on defense."
The 49ers took the early lead at 7-0 on Ishod Finger's fourth touchdown of the season. Finger rushed in from four yards out following an opening 7:48 minute drive that covered 75 yards in 14 plays. It was the longest drive in terms of time of play for the 49ers this season. WKU answered with a pair of TDs to go ahead 14-7. The second score came on a 69-yard TD pass in which Quarterback Ty Storey handed off but received a pitch back and threw long to Lucky Jackson for the TD.
"They got us early on the trick play, which was a great call," Healy said.
Charlotte responded with Chris Reynolds' 47-yard touchdown pass to Runningback Benny LeMay to tie the score at 14. WKU's 45-yard field goal with 4:08 to play gave the Hilltoppers a 17-14 lead at the break.
WKU added two field goals in the third quarter to extend the lead to 23-14. The Hilltoppers 10-play, 67-yard TD drive to close the third quarter pushed WKU ahead 30-14.
Charlotte was held scoreless in the second half for the first time this season, despite a 100-yard receiving effort from Victor Tucker. LeMay finished with 45 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards.
"We ran Benny a good bit," Healy said. "You didn't see him break the big one like he usually does, but he did some big things for us in the passing game which gave us a shot. We had some guys running open. Opportunities to make some big plays and get some more points are critical in games like this."
WKU put up 351 yards of total offense, including 291 through the air, while Charlotte had 286 total yards. The Hilltoppers had the game's lone turnover, stopping a promising Charlotte drive in third quarter with an interception in WKU territory.
ALL-TIME SACK ATTACK
R-Sr. Defensive End Alex Highsmith recorded 1.5 sacks in the game to give him 13.5 career sacks, breaking Larry Ogunjobi's career record of 13.0 sacks.
Highsmith, who came into the game ranked eighth in the FBS with one sack per game, now has 7.5 sacks on the season, extending his own single-season record. Charlotte had four sacks in the game. It is the fourth time the 49ers have had at least four sacks this season.
TUCKER OVER 100
For the second time this season and the fifth time in his career, Wide Receiver Victor Tucker recorded over 100 receiving yards. Tucker had six catches for 113 yards.
"It's a different wideout every game," Healy said. "When they focus on one guy, another guy has the ability to step up. A lot of different wideouts stepped up and they flashed at times today.
C-USA leading rusher, LeMay, had 97 all-purpose yards in the game, including a 47-yard TD reception that is the 49ers longest TD catch of the year. LeMay has scored eight TD's this season; five on the ground and three through the air.
Charlotte returns home for a two-game home stand. The 49ers host North Texas in the first-ever meeting between the two teams on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. Charlotte will welcome Middle Tennessee to Jerry Richardson Stadium the following week on Saturday, Nov. 2 before breaking for the season's second bye during the week of Nov. 9.