The Charlotte 49ers football team pulled off an unbelievable comeback in front of a sell-out homecoming crowd on Saturday, Nov. 6. The 49ers came from behind to beat the Rice Owls 31-24 in overtime.
Charlotte is off to the best start in program history as they improved to 5-4. With the victory, the 49ers are one win away from bowl eligibility.
Head Coach Will Healy preached about being sure to execute and finish drives and stand up when needed on the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers did that when it mattered most.
"They deserve the credit for it," said Healy. "We'd lost a couple in a row. We were wondering how guys would respond to being down 10 with six-and-a-half minutes to go against a football team that you knew was going to chew up the clock. Their belief and their effort and their execution led to an incredible win,"
The 49ers fought back from being down ten with 6:35 left in the game. Quarterback Chris Reynolds made his fifth fourth-quarter comeback in his career with Charlotte.
How it Happened:
Rice looked to strike first as they pushed the ball to the Charlotte 17-yard line, but the Charlotte defense stood firm. Rice lined up for a 35-yard field goal, but the wind got a hold of it, pushing Christian VanSickle's kick wide right, leaving the game scoreless.
The night's first score was late into the first quarter on a drive that heavily featured redshirt fourth-year running back Calvin Camp. He had back-to-back runs of over five yards on the drive. Following those two plays, Reynolds connected with Camp on a 53-yard touchdown pass to put the 49ers in front 7-0.
Rice's Jake Constantine got the offense rolling to end the first quarter with a 21-yard pass to Jake Bailey on the first play of that drive. The drive ended with a 22-yard rushing touchdown for Ari Broussard to tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Charlotte redshirt second-year running back Shadrick Byrd got things going on a 34-yard run which moved the team to the Owls' 22-yard line. Then from within the ten, the Owls were called for three defensive penalties giving the 49ers ample chances to score. Byrd capped off the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown giving Charlotte a 14-7 lead headed into the break.
Charlotte's first drive of the third quarter looked promising after a 44-yard run from Byrd put the 49ers deep into enemy territory. The 49ers looked like they would punch it in for the first time in the second half in multiple games, but Rice's Antonio Montero forced Reynolds to fumble. The Owls capitalized by driving down the field, scoring a 25-yard field goal. The Niners still led 14-10.
After a lackluster drive by the 49ers, the Owls got the ball and took their first lead of the contest scoring on a one-yard rushing touchdown by Jordan Myers, claiming the lead 17-14 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
The Owls opened up the fourth quarter with a long drive, which resulted in Rice adding onto their lead with a two-yard rushing touchdown from Broussard. Rice extended their lead over Charlotte to 24-14 with 6:35 left in the game.
The 49ers looked to get back in the game, and they would do just that by driving down the field. A 32-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz cut into the Owls' lead, making it 24-17 with 4:09 left.
After giving up a 17-yard run on the first play, the 49ers defense stoutly forced a punt with 2:29 left on the clock. Charlotte then had a monster drive going 80 yards to tie the game. On an eight-yard pass, Reynolds connected with Elijah Spencer, tying the game 24-24 with 1:14 left.
The Owls were unable to get anything going, so both teams headed to overtime to settle things. Charlotte came out and secured the win in overtime in just three plays.
Reynolds connected with Spencer again for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play to give Charlotte the 31-24 lead over Rice. The Owls got the ball back, and Constantine was forced to make an errant throw which Charlotte's Luke Martin intercepted, securing the 49er's victory.
Star Charlotte performances
Reynolds showed out in the game, completing 20-29 for 292-yards and three touchdowns, helping the team battle through the adversity.
"Tells you a lot about a football team," said Reynolds. "It would have been to lay down right there, but we attacked the adversity," said Reynolds.
Spencer also had a breakout performance, catching both tying and the game-winning touchdowns. He was focused on helping the team in any way possible.
"When I step on the field, I'm laser-focused. I just blank out," said Spencer. "I feel that nobody can stop me; it's just the greatest feeling to be able to come clutch like that. It was great."
Markees Watts and Martin came up big in crunch time. Watts forced a fumble to send the game into overtime, and Martin made the crucial catch to end the game getting the interception to win it.
The 49ers will hit the road for their next matchup as they will travel to Ruston, Louisiana, to take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 13. With a win, Charlotte can clinch bowl eligibility for the second time in program history.
"Now it's onto the next one. We have a chance to go on the road and play a really good Louisiana Tech team," said Healy.