Second half surge carries Illini past Charlotte, 24-14
Press release provided by Charlotte 49ers Athletics
Champaign, Ill. -- Illinois (2-4) scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to rally past Charlotte, 24-14, at Memorial Stadium, Saturday afternoon as the 49ers dropped to 1-1 against power conference opponents in 2021.
“Disappointed. I fully expected to win the game when we came into it. I believe we had plenty of opportunities and we didn’t get it done,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy. “Any time we lose a football game around here it should be disappointing. Am I concerned about this football team? Absolutely not. I’m ridiculously proud of them. Extremely resilient, competitive, talented football team. We just haven’t played our best football, yet.”
Chris Reynolds threw a pair of TD passes as Charlotte (3-2) built a 14-10 halftime lead in its non-conference finale. He connected with Victor Tucker for a touchdown for the 12th time in their careers but the first time this season to give Charlotte 7-3 first quarter lead. He then engineered a near-perfect three-minute drill to add the go-ahead TD with 46 seconds left in the half. Freshman Elijah Spencer leapt over his defender and pulled in the 27-yard TD in the end zone for the score. Reynolds had hit Grant Dubose for a 34-yard completion to spark the drive.
But Illinois held Charlotte scoreless in the second half and put up 14 third-quarter points to snare the victory. The loss left the 49ers 1-1 against power conference opponents in 2021.
The Fighting Illini took a 17-14 lead on its first possession of the second half on a 31-yard run by back Chase Brown to complete a 10-play, 94-yard drive. It extended the lead to 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter on Brown’s 80-yard breakaway TD following Charlotte’s missed 29-yard field goal attempt.
An interception on the 49ers first possession of the 4th quarter set the Fighting Illini at the CLT 28, but the defense held and Illinois’ 50-yard field goal attempt went wide.
Illinois had 414 yards of total offense, including 336 in the running game. Brown finished with 257 rushing yards and two TDs. Charlotte answered with 191 passing yards for a 263 yards of total offense. Reynolds, who was 9-of-10 for 134 yards in the first half, finished 17-of-23 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. DuBose led the 49ers with 70 receiving yards while Tucker added 55
Illinois took a 3-0 lead after driving 64 yards in 7:32 on its opening possession and regained the lead, 10-7, with 2:52 left in the half on a 10-yard strike from Brandon Peters to Daniel Barker.
Justin Whisenhunt forced a fumble at the six-yard line on 1st and goal from the 9 to thwart an Illinois scoring attack early in the second quarter as the two teams traded turnovers in the Illinois end of the field. Illinois had recovered a DuBose fumble to start the drive in 49ers’ territory.
Charlotte returns to Conference USA play when they take on FIU on the road Friday.
Victor Tucker moved into a tie for second all-time for the 49ers with his 12th TD catch, matching Trent Bostick
Chris Reynolds threw a TD pass for the 10th straight game, extending his own school record
Freshman Elijah Spencer’s TD catch was his seventh reception of the season. Three have been for TDs
Spencer scored a TD for the third straight game
Reynolds was 9-of-10 for 134 yards in the first half. He became the first 49er to surpass 6,000 career passing yards
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