The Charlotte 49ers walked away from an epic comeback shootout with Conference USA opponent North Texas with their third win of the season and their first C-USA win.
“This is probably one of the top one or two wins I’ve had in my sports career,” said 49ers linebacker Jeff Gemmell.
The cloudy afternoon mirrored the slow start for the 49ers as they went down early 21-7 at half, only able to muster up a measly 192 yards of offense at halftime. This included four punts and a turnover on downs on a failed fourth down conversion. The lone score of the first half came from running back Benny LeMay.
The 49ers offense took a more methodical approach in the first half while being down 21-7 they still were able to control time of possession from 17:03 to 12:03. On the other side of the field, North Texas Quarterback Mason Fine was having a career day carving up the 49ers secondary. Fine had three touchdowns with 243 yards passing to go along with 300 yards of total offense in the first half. This included an inexcusable 52-second scoring drive within the last two minutes of the second quarter.
Then, the second half brought five straight touchdown drives for the 49ers, something you rarely from a 49ers offense attacking down the field with ease, and moving the ball with purpose. Charlotte 49ers Quarterback Chris Reynolds came out of the gate hot, capping an eight-play 99-yard drive with an incredible 52-yard touchdown bomb down the sideline to Junior Wide Receiver Tyler Ringwood that would cut the lead to 21-14. That 99-yard drive tied the longest drive in 49ers football history. North Texas would respond, pushing the lead back to 14 off of an eight play 65-yard touchdown drive that only took 2:40 off the clock.
The resilience of the 49ers showed its face in the second half as the back and forth continued for both sides. Reynolds would showcase his rare athletic ability on the 49ers next drive highlighted by a huge 25-yard scramble and a 29-yard TD run down the throat of the Mean Green defense. The 49ers would again cut the lead down to seven (21-28).
The 49ers' defense continued to struggle particularly in the secondary as Fine was having his way, pushing the lead back to 14 and the score to 35-21. The North Texas offense marched down the field with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a Fine 34-yard TD to Senior Receiver Michael Lawrence. That fifth touchdown pass was a career high for Fine as he had a career day unlike any other.
Head Coach Will Healy’s squad continued to fight. Stubborn to drop this game was LeMay. LeMay caught a 31-yard TD from Chris Reynolds on a nine-play, 75-yard touch down drive that took 2:41 off the clock. The 49ers' offense was rolling and having their way with the North Texas defense. As the game moved along, a ray of hope would help the 49ers finally catch North Texas as a costly 15-yard illegal cut penalty would stall the Mean Green offense for the first time in the second half. This forced a 30-yard field goal which would be blocked by Senior Cornerback Marquill Osborne; a pivotal opportunity for the 49ers that did not go to waste.
On the next drive the 49ers' offense would put together a six-play, 77 yard drive helped by a 15-yard pass interference call on the Mean Green defense. This resulted in a five-yard touchdown by LeMay who was starting to take over the game. That five-yard touchdown moved Lemay to No. 2 all-time in touchdowns (26) for the 49ers football program. The lead was cut to two (33-35) as the 49ers started to creep closer.
North Texas was stalled out by the defense again. The defense came alive on back-to-back drives again holding the Mean Green offense to another FG attempt in which they would convert pushing the lead to five (38-33). The 49ers' offense would get the ball back with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter. This was the chance they had fought all second half for: the opportunity to take the lead.
The drive didn’t take long as Reynolds and the offense had a six-play, 75 yard touchdown drive capped off by a beautiful 34-yard strike to Victor Tucker who had a quiet 100-yard receiving game. That drive pushed Reynolds to 336 yards passing: a new single season high. North Texas got one more opportunity to win the game with a drive that resulted in a 49ers strip sack and fumble recovery by Defensive End Markees Watts.
“The preparation and the process in which these guys went about things after losing four in a row is what made things possible," said Healy. “This football team is improving drastically day in and day out."
Charlotte remains at home to face Middle Tennessee in their next conference matchup on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m.