WKU Hands Charlotte 37-19 C-USA Football Loss


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – WKU (5-6; 4-3) used an imposing first half performance to grab a 37-19 Conference USA win over Charlotte (2-4; C-USA: 2-2) in the 49ers final home game of the 2020 season.

“Congratulations to Western Kentucky,” said head coach Will Healy. “I thought they played a great football game. They got after us. If felt kind of like a first game – you get to 17-7 and you’re sneaking back in this thing, and holding them to a field goal so its still a two-score game – credit to (WKU), they continued to expand the lead.”

WKU built a 17-0 halftime lead by holding Charlotte to just 34 yards of total offense and profiting from a key 49ers miscue. Leading 3-0, the Hilltoppers scored their first TD when a snap went through the hands of punter Connor Bowler.  WKU recovered it at the Charlotte 2-yard line and carried it in to take a 10-0 lead.  WKU added a score in the closing seconds of the half by recovering their own fumble in the end zone.

Charlotte ran 28 first-half plays in totaling just 34 yards, which included the loss on the mishandled punt attempt.

“That was one of the more dominant defensive performances I’ve seen in a long time,” Healy said of the first half. “A lot of people that I’m sure will be able to watch the film tomorrow and say, ‘I could have done better.’ That’s got to be our mindset as a football team. What could I have done to help our football team?  It starts with me and ends with me. Obviously today wasn’t good enough.”

The 49ers scored on the first possession of the second half, as QB Chris Reynolds and Victor Tucker connected on a pair of catches for 50 yards to set up a five-yard TD toss to Micaleous Elder to make it 17-7. WKU answered with a 46-yard field goal and then scored on a three-yard pass to Mitchell Tinsley that was set-up by a 37-yard completion to Dakota Thomas to push the lead to 27-7.

Two Charlotte touchdown passes in the final five minutes sandwiched another score by WKU as Charlotte dropped a home game for just the second time in two years.

Along the way, redshirt senior safety Ben DeLuca, who had seven tackles, recorded his 307th career tackle, breaking the all-time school-record of 306 set by Jeff Gemmell, last season. Tucker had eight catches for 111 yards to become the second player in 49ers history with over 2,000 receiving yards. It was his second 100-yard game of the year and the 10th of his career. Micaleous Elder caught a pair of touchdown passes to give him four TDs in the last three games. QB Chris Reynolds became the second QB in 49ers history to surpass 5,000 career yards.

“I’m very proud of our football team,” said head coach Will Healy afterwards. “Listening to Ben (DeLuca) and Victor (Tucker) and how they don’t want to make excuses and how they want to grow from it and take responsibility – that’s why I feel so good about the leadership of our football team.”

Charlotte will travel to Marshall on Friday for a 6:30 p.m.