The Charlotte 49ers won against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 34-20 on Saturday at Jerry Richardson stadium. The 49ers thrived without star running back and conference leader in rushing-yards, Benny LeMay, who did not play in the game due to injury.
The team posted 248 yards rushing on the day, led by running back Aaron McAlister, who would score two touchdowns on 24 carries for 104 yards. Quarterback Chris Reynolds would also rush for 103 yards and a touchdown to go along with his 192 yards passing and a lone touchdown. The two teammates rushing for over 100-yards each was the first time two players for the Niners have rushed for 200 together since the team played FIU last season.
“It was a great team win. Huge win at home, and I thought from start to finish it was probably the best we've played all year," said 49ers' Head Coach Will Healy. "You find out at nine o'clock this morning that Benny LeMay is not going to play, and for us to be able to have the confidence we do in the backs we have, and Aaron McAllister to play as well as he did and Chris Reynolds to pick up the load running the football, and these big boys front to do as well as they did and win the line of scrimmage, was huge."
The Mountaineers scored first against the Niners to take the lead 7-0 after a 3:33 second drive. Quarterback Asher O’Hara scored on a 19-yard pass to running back Zack Dobson who went bouncing off of multiple 49er defenders before going down in the end zone.
The Niners would even the game out on the next drive when McAllister ran it into the end zone from two yards out.
The Blue Raiders would punt on their second drive after only gaining two yards on three plays and returner Nafees Lyon would return the punt 15 yards. Lyon would return three punts for 45 yards on the day with a long of 23 yards.
On the next drive, the Niners would mount a 50-yard, five-play scoring drive in just 1:50, as Reynolds would scamper for a 32-yard rush early in the drive to help set up a fourth and one 18-yard touchdown run by Reynolds again, this time from the Blue Raiders' 18-yard line to put the Niners up 14-7.
Reynolds credited the offense’s performance to the offensive line after the game, even insisting that they take part in the post-game press conference.
“Every week you see us putting up stats and the numbers like Benny [LeMay], [Aaron McAllister] and Ishod [Finger], and [the offensive line] goes unnoticed. They’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and have had to push through a lot of things. They adjusted amazingly, opening up different holes, and I think they needed to be recognized.”
The next drive would stall out for Middle Tennessee, as the offense would only gain 15-yards before falling apart and being forced to punt.
Lyon would record his second punt return of the day, his longest, a 23-yarder the longest of his career. The fired-up nature of the return would carry over to the offense as well, as receiver Victor Tucker would catch an 18-yard pass, helping lead to a five-yard rushing touchdown by McAllister later in the drive.
Both teams would punt on the next drives, before the 49ers would attempt a 48-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz, who would not be able to convert the kick. The attempt and miss would end the eight consecutive drives with a touchdown the team had boasted in their two game win streak. Cruz would try at redemption just a few plays later as 49er’ defender Jacione Fugate would pick off O’Hare on the 41-yardline, leading to Cruz field goal from 38-yards out just three plays later.
The second half opened with Charlotte receiving. The offense would take advantage of the first possession, going on a 12 play, 75-yard 6:22 drive that would be capped by a Christian Roberson one-yard reception touchdown. The drive would be courtesy of McAllister, who rushed for 39-yards before momentarily being injured at the end of the drive. The drive would largely put the game into unreachable territory as the Niners would take a 31-7 lead with 8:38 left in the third quarter.
The Mountaineers would fumble on the next drive before attempting to come back, scoring a final touchdown by an O’Hara pass to Jimmy Marshall, but it would not be enough to beat the rolling 49ers who would score another field goal to put it away 34-20.
“We won the special team’s battle and the field position battle,” said Coach Healy “A lot of big time categories we talked about we were able to win, and it was probably the first time all year long we were able to do that. I am extremely proud of where we’re heading I think these guys would be the first to tell you were not there yet but we made a big step forward today, and now we have a really tough one on the road at UTEP,” said Coach Healy.
Charlotte plays their next game on Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. as they take on the University of Texas at El Paso in El Paso.