Charlotte 49ers Become Bowl Eligible For First Time In Program History

CHARLOTTE, NC Bowl eligible for the first time. School-record six wins. Four in a row. Senior Day. Add in the enthusiastic home crowd despite the constant rain and this had all the makings of the greatest day in Charlotte 49ers football history.

And Victor Tucker’s 25-yard touchdown catch in the final minute on fourth and 10, with his helmet being ripped off, to seal the deal, has all the makings of the biggest play in Charlotte 49ers football history.

Charlotte’s 24-13 victory over C-USA frontrunner Marshall (7-4; C-USA: 5-2) included yet another come-from-behind effort. It included another virtuoso performance from redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Reynolds, who keeps finding ways to win.  It included a stout defensive effort that saw the Thundering Herd held to 13 points, the second-fewest points Charlotte (6-5; C-USA: 4-3) has ever allowed in a C-USA game.

“It was not the ideal setting,” Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy said, noting the ever-present rain. “But it was a special day. Our growth as a program is something these guys will always remember. I know I will.”

Charlotte rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score in the third quarter. Marshall regained the lead 13-10 and held that edge going into the fourth quarter. But Tucker scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Charlotte notched its third come-from-behind win in the last four games.

“A word that can describe our team, I know coach Healy doesn’t like being an underdog but I think we take pride in that,” said redshirt senior linebacker Jeff Gemmell, who led the 49ers with 10 tackles, including a sack. “I have a little piece of paper in my room that says ‘take pride in being an underdog’. That’s just who we are. Story of the year, every game we battle back. We battle. We don’t quit. We don’t quit.”

Charlotte has now won four straight and snapped Marshall’s five-game win streak.  Charlotte has notched a school-record six wins and reached bowl eligibility for the first time in school history.

Victor Tucker scored on a five-yard end around to give Charlotte its first lead, 17-13, with 10:47 to play in the fourth quarter. It was the wide receiver’s first rushing TD of his career. In the final minute, with Charlotte protecting that four-point lead, he pulled in an acrobatic 25-yard catch in the end zone to ice the victory.

“We can run it and try to waste a little more time,” said Healy, “or we can go for the jugular.  I think that’s our mentality right now. We’re not going to be passive. We’re not going to hope that we can hold them. Let’s go after them. The catch was unbelievable. To end it that way was really special.”

QB Chris Reynolds threw a touchdown pass for the seventh straight game, rushed for over 100 yards for the second time in three games and overcame a pair of interceptions to engineer a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives. He finished with a career-high 145 rushing yards and threw for 166 yards. Reynolds (3373) passed Hasaan Klugh (3247) for second all-time in career passing.

With 100 yards rushing, RB Benny LeMay became the second 49er in school history to rush for 3,000 yards in his career. He rushed for 100 yards for the sixth time in his nine games played, this year and now owns 13 100-yard rushing games in his career.

Charlotte held Marshall to just 230 yards of total offense, the second-fewest total yards Marshall has put up this season (172 vs. Boise State). Marshall was held to 86 passing yards, the second-fewest the Herd has put up this year (56 vs. Boise State). Charlotte QB Chris Reynolds (145 rushing yards) outrushed Marshall (144), which ranked second (to Charlotte) in C-USA in rushing offense coming into the game. Charlotte also held Marshall without an offensive touchdown. The Thundering Herd’s lone TD came on a blocked punt.

Charlotte recognized 21 seniors on Senior Day, including all-time leading tackler Jeff Gemmell, all-time sack leader Alex Highsmith and the program’s second all-time leading rusher Benny LeMay.

R-Sr. OL Cam Clark played in his 47th career game, matching the school record held by Juwan Foggie, TL Ford and Wolfgang Zacherl.

Charlotte will play its final game of the regular season, Saturday, Nov. 30 at Old Dominion.