After a 4-2 start to the season that included their first win over a Power 5 team against Duke, the Charlotte 49ers football team ended the season with a disappointing 56-34 loss to Old Dominion.
With the loss to ODU, Charlotte finishes the season with a record of 5-7.
Their conference record falls to 3-5 with the loss to Old Dominion. Of the seven C-USA East teams, Charlotte is tied for fifth in conference record.
"I fully expected to win the game," said 49ers head coach Will Healy. "I didn't want this to be the last week for these guys. I thought there were glimpses in the game where we played dominant football, but we weren't consistent enough. It's probably the story of our year."
The first quarter belonged to ODU. With two rushing touchdowns, they took a 14-0 lead late in the first. It wasn't just a dominant performance on offense for ODU, but there was nothing Charlotte could do to combat the ODU defense either. In Charlotte's three offensive drives in the first quarter, two of them ended in interceptions while the other ended with a turnover on downs.
The second quarter was a bit more even on both ends, with each team scoring 14. ODU opened the quarter up with a TD to take a 21-0 lead, but Charlotte finally answered back on the next drive with a 19 yard Reynolds pass to Elijah Spencer to put the Niners on the board.
ODU answered back with their fourth touchdown of the day with a 34-yard passing touchdown. The next time ODU was on offense, it was Charlotte who finally found an answer. Niner linebacker, Luke Martin, got the interception and returned it for a touchdown to bring the Niners within 14.
The Niners found themselves down by 14 to start the second half and stopped ODU from scoring on the half's opening drive. On the next drive for Charlotte, they drove down the field, 75 yards in just five plays, and scored a touchdown on a nine-yard pass to DuBose.
The Niners defense forced another punt on the next drive, and the offense again ended their drive with a touchdown thanks to a six-yard Calvin Camp rushing TD. Charlotte overcame their 21-0 deficit and, with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, were tied at 28. The Niners didn't hold that lead for long. On the next drive, ODU scored a touchdown to take a 35-28 lead.
In the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, the only scoring that was done was two Jonathan Cruz field goals to bring the game to a very close 35-34, while ODU's only drive-in that span ended in a Lance McMillan interception.
While Charlotte was down by just one point, ODU turned the game around tremendously and embarrassed the Niners for the last seven minutes of the game.
ODU scored a touchdown on the next drive to finish off a 75-yard drive. Charlotte had the ball back in their hands, but it seemed ODU wanted it more. They forced a fumble and scored a touchdown on their drive.
Down 49-34, Charlotte was in bad shape but had the ball. ODU forced another fumble on the drive but this time returned it for a touchdown. When Charlotte got the ball back, they turned it over on downs, and ODU took the win 56-34.
"The turnovers hurt us," said Healy.
The 49ers threw a pair of interceptions in the first half to go along with the two fumbles in the second half.
"We've had some really good opening drives and had a chance to create some early confidence and early energy and weren't able to do it. Instead of us being up 7-0, they're up 7-0," said Healy. "Had some chances to get off field on third down. We weren't able to do it. Broken tackles and some of those things. Not near clean enough."
A huge hit for the Niners was penalties. Charlotte may have had more offensive yards than ODU 480-441 one Charlotte had 14 penalties for an insane 109 yards.
Despite an ugly loss to end the season, there were some Niners who had good games.
Grant DuBose, who joined the Niners over the summer, finished his first Charlotte season with a bang. He hauled in nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season first among all Niner players for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, receiving yards per game, yards per reception and had the longest reception of the season.
Linebacker Luke Martin had an impressive game. He had a pick-six and also racked up a team-high: nine total tackles. The interception was the second of his career, while his first was just a couple of weeks ago when the Niners faced off against Rice.
Calvin Camp led the Niners in rushing with 90 yards on the ground on just 16 attempts. This gives him an average of 5.6 yards a carry, not to mention one of his runs ending in a touchdown. Shadrick Byrd also had an impressive rushing performance. Byrd ran for 72 yards on 13 attempts. His yards per carry was 5.5, just behind Camp.
This loss ends the Niner season with a disappointing result. Just two years ago, Charlotte finished a positive 7-6. The Niners will look to improve next season with Healey back at the helm.