Ruston, La. — In what turned out to be a high-scoring battle, Louisiana Tech upended Charlotte, 42-32, in Conference USA action, Saturday afternoon.
Charlotte (5-5; C-USA: 3-3) got a school-record 448 passing yards from quarterback Chris Reynolds, but Marcus Williams Jr. had four rushing touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs (3-7; C-USA: 2-4) to the win.
“Disappointing,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy. “We got it going too late offensively. Not scoring in the red one on offense. Didn’t think we tackled well. Didn’t get off the field on third down. Congrats to (Louisiana Tech). Their guys played really hard.”
Leading 14-7 at the break, Louisiana Tech unleashed TD drives on its first four possessions of the second half to force the 49ers to play catch-up for the remainder of the game. Charlotte answered with three TDs of its own and a field goal to stay within striking distance but could not grab the lead.
Marcus Williams Jr. had four rushing TDs, the most allowed by the 49ers to an opposing running back, and Bulldog QB Aaron Allen threw for two TDs.
The real challenge and the real character of our football team will be how we respond,” said Healy, as the 49ers look to become bowl eligible for the second time in school history. “We need to find a way to get one so we can continue to play. It’d be big for our program. It’d be big for our seniors. Would love them to earn that opportunity.”
URSERY’S PICK KEEPS NINERS CLOSE IN FIRST HALF
Williams scored late in the first half to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead in what was looking like a defensive showdown.
Charlotte had tied the score, 7-7, on Shadrick Byrd’s one-yard TD run with 5:55 left in the half.
The scoring drive was set up by the cornerback Shedrick Ursery’s first career interception which gave Charlotte the ball in Louisiana Tech territory. A 22-yard pass from Reynolds to Grant DuBose and an eight-yard rush by Calvin Camp moved the 49ers into the redzone for the third time in the half.
This time, Charlotte cashed in after Reynolds completed a fourth-down conversion to tight end Ryan Carriere that landed Charlotte at the three.
Louisiana Tech had an INT on the 2-yard line on Charlotte’s first promising first drive that saw Reynolds convert a pair of long third downs on passes of 19 yards to DuBose and Victor Tucker. The Bulldogs stopped Charlotte on fourth-and-goal from the one on the second drive to keep the Niners off the scoreboard.
“You can’t give teams gifts,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy. “We can’t miss opportunities. We’ve got to play well to win football games and we did not do that tonight. We had way too many self-inflicted (wounds).”
The Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead on its first drive on the first of two TD runs from Marcus Williams Jr. second TD was an eight-yard run with 1:38 to play in the half.
HIGH-SCORING SECOND HALF
The Bulldogs marched 75 yards on five plays, including a 49-yard pass to Tre Harris, to score on its first possession of the second half. Marcus Williams Jr. scored his third TD of the game from seven yards out to complete the drive.
Charlotte answered with a Jonathan Cruz 27-yard field goal to cut the lead to 11, 21-10, with 9:06 left in the third.
On Louisiana Tech’s next possession, QB Aaron Allen connected for a 35-yard completion and then tossed a 32-yard TD pass to Isaiah Graham.
Reynolds scored on a 12-yard scamper to answer the Bulldogs drive and bring Charlotte back within 11, 28-17.
Reynolds hit Keith Pearson Jr. for a pair of TD passes in the fourth quarter, but those scores only kept pace with the Bulldogs, who got another TD pass by Allen and a 25-yard TD run by Williams.
Pearson finished the game with a career-best six catches for 150 yards and the two TDs, stepping up after star wideout Victor Tucker left the game with injury. Pearson joins DuBose and Elijah Spencer as newcomers who have caught two TD passes in a game for the 49ers this season.
Charlotte hosts Marshall, Saturday, in the 100th game in Charlotte 49ers football history.