The Charlotte 49ers bounced back with a win over the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State 42-39. After the thrilling victory, the team improves to 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in conference play.
"Tonight, it wasn't always pretty," said head coach Will Healy after the game. "We still had confidence that we were going to find a way to win this football game."
The game started relatively fast as both teams got to work in the first quarter by striking often.
After stopping Middle Tennessee on their opening drive, Charlotte got on the board first, with 7:25 remaining in the quarter. Fifth-year senior quarterback Chris Reynolds connected with sophomore wide receiver Grant Dubose for a 17-yard score. The Raiders answered back on the next drive as redshirt junior quarterback Chase Cunningham tied the game up with a seven-yard completion to senior wide receiver Jimmy Marshall.
With 57 seconds left in the quarter, Charlotte got in the endzone again as Reynolds hit Dubose for the second time to push the score to 14-7. This passing touchdown would be Reynolds's 43rd, allowing him to break Matt Johnson's all-time school passing TD record.
"It's hard to fathom how much farther you can go as a program in Charlotte," Quarterback Chris Reynolds said after the game. "I know for me when my clock's done here, I'm going to look back and be able to be proud of how we've grown and how much we're going to continue to grow."
At the beginning of the second quarter, the Blue Raiders came back to tie the game 14-14 as Cunningham found freshman receiver Jaylin Lane in the endzone. A couple of minutes later, the Raiders took their first lead of the contest on a 26-yard field goal by Zeke Rankin. Middle Tennesse State led Charlotte 17-14 at the halftime break.
Kicker Jonathan Cruz had his field goal attempt blocked on Charlotte's opening drive in the second half. After a defensive stop, Charlotte got the ball back and set up an extensive drive that included two critical third-down passes to Dubose and senior Victor Tucker. Reynolds capped off the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman Elijah Spencer which put the 49ers back on top 21-17.
Middle Tennessee State retook the lead on a 51-yard pass and run by sophomore D.J. England-Chisolm in only three plays, 24-21. In the final seconds of the third quarter, Charlotte redshirt senior running back Calvin Camp broke off a 44-yard run to give the 49ers a 28-24 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Charlotte's Shadrick Byrd scored in the fourth quarter, but the touchdown wouldn't stand due to a holding call. Reynolds hit Byrd for a 19-yard score on the next play to extend the 49ers lead to 11 with 10:27 remaining in the game.
Middle Tennessee State fought to stay in the game by pulling within three. A 16-yard touchdown reception from Jarrin Pierce and a two-point conversion cut the 49er lead to three 35-32
The 49ers looked to put the game away on their next drive. After three unsuccessful tries at the goal line, Reynolds finally got it in, leaping over the linemen to score and put the Niners up 42-32.
The Raiders managed to score again with 2:12 remaining, but it would be too late as Charlotte would take it 42-39 in front of another packed house at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
"Our students are unbelievable; they have made this place big time," Healy said. "I cannot say enough. Our players feel it. The electricity in that stadium tonight, especially at the end of the game, was awesome."
Dubose, Tucker and Camp all had 100-yard performances in the game. Dubose had 114 yards receiving while Tucker had 108, and Camp had 101 rushing yards. There was a lot of offense as both teams combined for 1061 yards and a combined 81 points.
"You just feel really good when this football team is playing that we're gonna find ways to win the game and tonight was no different," said Healy. "I thought we responded really well when adversity hit. We played a really good football team and a well-coached football team."
Charlotte will travel to Champaign, IL, for their next contest as they will take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 2. The game will kick off at 12 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.