EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – Charlotte erased a 21-7 halftime deficit by scoring 21 unanswered points over the final two quarters, escaping El Paso with a 28-21 win over UTEP on Saturday afternoon at Sun Bowl Stadium.
The red-hot 49ers (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) won their third consecutive game behind quarterback Chris Reynolds, who completed 24-of-35 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. Reynolds was 14-of-21 for 213 yards in the second half. leading the 49ers to their first road win of the season.
Over the last 30 minutes, Charlotte posted 297 total yards to UTEP’s 127. The Miners (1-8, 0-6 C-USA) were limited to five first downs in the second half, in addition to being kept off the scoreboard. However, the game’s outcome was undecided until the final minute.
With the Miners trailing 28-21, quarterback Kai Locksley led the offense to the Charlotte 20-yard line. On second and nine, his pass was intercepted by 49ers’ linebacker Henry Segura and Charlotte ran out the final 1:03 on the clock.
“We lost a 14-point lead and when you lose a 14-point lead you aren’t doing the things you need to do to finish a ball game. We did find a way to lose it,” said head coach Dana Dimel. “We just didn’t play well enough in the second half or make enough plays to win a football game.”
Reynolds burned the Miners with his arm as well as his legs, rushing 18 times for 91 yards. Cameron Dollar had nine catches for 157 yards for Charlotte.
Locksley completed 15-of-20 passes for 215 yards for UTEP. Jacob Cowing set a UTEP freshman record with 145 receiving yards on six receptions. The Miners enjoyed success running the football with 174 yards, as Locksley picked up 84 yards on 15 rushing attempts.
The Miners got the fast start they needed, building a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Locksley was 6-for-6 passing on UTEP’s first two drives as he rushed for one touchdown and passed for another.
Charlotte made it a 14-7 game when Reynolds hit Tyler Ringwood for a 16-yard touchdown pass, but the Miners answered with a Treyvon Hughes touchdown run just before the half. It was a 10-play, 81-yard drive.
The 49ers started their comeback with a 45-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz. Then, Ishod Finger rushed for a three-yard touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion was good, pulling Charlotte within three points (21-18) with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. Later, Cruz kicked a 34-yard field goal and the game was deadlocked at 21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Charlotte took its first lead of the game with 7:06 to play, when Reynolds connected with Jacob Hunt for a 19-yard TD. Charlotte scored on its first four possessions of the second half, while UTEP’s five second-half drives ended with three punts, a turnover on downs and the interception.
“We definitely moved the ball well all game, we just didn’t execute on those critical, crucial plays,” said Locksley. “The fourth-and-one on the goal line. You need that one. The last play at the end. I was trying to throw the ball away and save our timeout because you can’t take a sack there.”
On their game-winning drive, the 49ers drove the length of the field, 95 yards on 10 plays and converted two third downs. Charlotte was 5-of-8 on third down conversions in the second half.
UTEP will play back-to-back road games at UAB (Nov. 16) and New Mexico State (Nov. 23) prior to closing out the season at home against Rice on Nov. 30.