The Charlotte 49ers football team lost a tough battle to Illinois by a score of 24-14 on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Illinois. It was a game that was determined by the ground game in large part as the Fighting Illini were able to control, not only the time of possession but the run game as well.
"Disappointed. I fully expected to win the game when we came into it. I believe we had plenty of opportunities and we didn't get it done," said head coach Will Healy. "Any time we lose a football game around here it should be disappointing. Am I concerned about this football team? Absolutely not. I'm ridiculously proud of them. Extremely resilient, competitive, talented football team. We just haven't played our best football, yet."
After the 49ers won the coin toss, they elected to differ to the second half granting the Fighting Illini the ball to start the game. The 49ers accomplished their first goal by not letting Illinois into the end zone and only giving up a field goal.
After hard-fought runs by Shadrick Byrd and Calvin Camp on the 49ers’ first drive, it was a 22-yard strike from Chris Reynolds to Victor Tucker for the first 49er score of the game. The 49ers would hold Illinois on the Fighting Illini’s next drive forcing a punt, yet it returned fruitless for the 49ers after a turnover on one play after a completion over the middle to Grant DuBose. DuBose, after the reception, went to make a move on the Illini defender and in the process, the ball was knocked free from his control.
It would remain a bit of a defensive-oriented first quarter and remain that way for the first portion of the second quarter. It was not until 2:52 remaining in the half when Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters found Daniel Baker for the 10-yard score putting them up 10-7.
However, the 49ers had a quick answer. It only took six plays for Reynolds to find receiver Elijah Spencer in the endzone for a 49er touchdown. After a Jonathan Cruz point-after conversion, this made the score 14-10, and the teams would head to halftime after the remaining seconds ticked off the clock.
This half was, in large part, dominated by the Fighting Illini. The glaring turning point is when Cruz had a 29-yard field goal attempt to knot the game at 17 apiece, yet pushed it right. On the Fighting Illini’s next possession, it only took one play for them to go 80 yards and find themselves in the endzone. Running back Chase Brown for the Fighting Illini found a gap and took it the distance. Brown would end up with 257 yards on the ground in the game.
“Chase (Brown) could catch the ball out of the backfield, he could outrun you,” head coach Will Healy said after the game. “He is very physical and runs with great pad level.”
There would not be any more scores the rest of the game, and Illinois was able to continue to chip away at the clock.
“They killed us in time of possession,” Healy added. It is a game that was physical from the opening kickoff and Healy will look to rally his guys for the short week they have upcoming.
Charlotte's fifth-year quarterback Chris Reynolds is optimistic that the team will use this loss to motivate the team. With the team getting into the depth of the conference season, the 49ers put the loss behind them.
"If we let it bother us, this loss can hurt us for the rest of the year," said Reynolds. "No matter if it is a win or a loss, you can't be too high for too low. It's the same process we wake up in the morning and move on."
The 49ers have a short week of preparation as they will travel to Florida International to face the Panthers on Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. This game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. The 49ers will look to cash in on their opportunities against the Panthers.
"We have a lot in front of us," said Reynolds. "We have a lot of opportunities in front of us, and we have to cash in on them by continuing to work on them."