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 in the Sun Bowl.
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 in leading the 49ers to their first road win of the season.
Over the last 30 minutes, Charlotte posted 297 yards to UTEP’s 127. The Miners (1-8, 0-6 C-USA) were limited to five first downs in the second half while being kept off the scoreboard, but 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. But on second and nine, his pass was intercepted by 49er linebacker Henry Segura and Charlotte ran out the final 1:03 on the clock.
Reynolds also burned the Miners with 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 for UTEP, and Jacob Cowing set a UTEP freshman record with 145 yards on six receptions. The Miners enjoyed success running the football with 37 carries for 174 yards, as Locksley picked up 84 yards on 15 rushing attempts.
The Miners got the fast start that 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 reinstated the two-touchdown lead right before halftime behind Treyvon Hughes, who scampered three years into the end zone to put the exclamation point on a 10-play, 81-yard drive.
The 49ers started their comeback with a 45-yard field goal by Jonathan Cruz. Then, Ishod Ringer rushed for a three-yard TD and the ensuing two-point conversion was good, pulling Charlotte within three points (21-18) with 4:48 remaining in the third period.
Later, Cruz kicked a 34-yard field goal and the game was deadlocked at 21 heading to 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 loss of downs and the interception.
On their game-winning drive, the 49ers traveled 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 NM State (Nov. 23) prior to closing out the season at home against Rice on Nov. 30. Tickets to the Rice game are available by calling 747-5234 or by going online.
Next week’s matchup at UAB will be streamed on ESPN3 beginning at 11 a.m. Mountain time.
Photo gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post