CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The stars shined in Charlotte’s final regular-season game, a 38-22 victory at Old Dominion, Saturday. None more brightly than redshirt senior defensive end Alex Highsmith, who finished the day with a team-high 12 tackles, a school-record 4.5 sacks, a school-record 5.0 tackles for loss along with a forced fumble, QB hurry and a pass break-up.
Highsmith’s defensive effort complemented an offensive outing that included 100-yard performances from running back Benny LeMay and wideout Victor Tucker. R-So. quarterback Chris Reynolds threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 96 yards.
The win was the 49ers (7-5; C-USA: 5-3) fifth straight and gave the 49ers school records for wins in a season and C-USA wins in a season. It guaranteed Charlotte’s first winning season.
“Winning five in a row is a big deal. Going 4-0 in November is a huge deal,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy afterwards. “This team was 2-5 at one point in time. To finish 7-5 – that’s resiliency. Tremendous job by this staff. Great job by these players of buying in and sticking with the plan and they got rewarded. Super proud of them.”
Charlotte scored touchdowns on its first three possessions to run out to a 24-7 halftime lead over the Monarchs (1-11; C-USA: 0-8). Reynolds hit Tucker with a 58-yard TD pass on the opening drive – the longest pass play for the 49ers this season. LeMay added a 16-yard TD run, in which he appeared stopped at the line of scrimmage, spun and carried a tackler the final five yards for the first of his two TDs.
“You’ve got to be hungry when you’re near the goal line,” LeMay said. “My mindset is just score. We know we have the tools and the ability to do it. Like I said before the offensive line does a great job and makes big holes for me.”
RB Aaron McAllister scored on a nine-yard run to start the second quarter. Reynolds hit Tyler Ringwood for a 15-yard TD in the third and LeMay wrapped up the 49ers scoring with a 10-yard TD run as Charlotte built its lead to 38-14.
“As a team, we changed the attention to detail and focused on the little things a little bit more and building a culture,” LeMay said of the mid-season turnaround. “We did a great job of playing for each other and being great teammates as well as great players. I felt as a team we just did a great job stepping up.”
With his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the year, Sr. RB Benny LeMay eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight year. He is the first 49ers running back to notch two 1,000-yard seasons in his career.
R-Sr. LB Jeff Gemmell, the 49ers all-time lead tackler, became the first 49er to reach 300 career tackles. He had 11 tackles, today, giving him 300 in his career.
R-So. QB Chris Reynolds had another complete game, throwing for 166 yards and two TDs and rushing for 96 yards. With his two TD passes, he tied Matt Johnson for the single-season record with 21 touchdown throws. He has rushed for 90+ yards in each game during the current five-game win streak.
TUCKER ON TOP
Redshirt sophomore Victor Tucker had 118 receiving yards to give him 848 on the season, a new FBS record for a 49ers receiver.
MORE GAME PLAYED
R-Sr. OL Cam Clark broke the 49ers all-time school record with his 48th career game played, today. He shared the record of 47 with Juwan Foggie, TL Ford and Wolfgang Zacherl. LB Jeff Gemmell and DE Alex Highsmith both played in their 47th career game.
The Charlotte 49ers, who are bowl eligible for the first time in the school’s five-year FBS history, will learn of their bowl fate in the next week.