Charlotte had two 100-yard rushers, rushed for an FBS-best 349 yards and put up a season-high 504 yards of total offense, but Florida International (3-1, 2-0 Conference USA) rallied from a 19-point second quarter deficit to hand the 49ers (0-5, 0-1) a 30-29 loss in their conference opener.
FIU took the lead, 30-29, on Jose Borregales’ 27-yard field goal with 7:22 left to play.
On the 49ers’ final drive, Charlotte reached the FIU 31-yard line to set up a potential game-winning 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds left, but Nigel Macauley’s kick missed just to the right.
“We missed a 49-yarder last year against them, it was 48 yards this year. Just tough to swallow,” said 49ers coach Brad Lambert, referencing last year’s 27-26 home loss.
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Saturday’s game was highlighted by the offensive efforts of Charlotte running back Benny LeMay, who rushed for a career-high 178 yards, the fifth-most in 49ers history. Quarterback Hasaan Klugh had 107 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown, a 3-yard pass to LeMay in the first quarter.
“Just wanted to give the kids a chance to win,” Lambert said of his decision to kick the field goal rather than going for it on fourth-and-2. “If you don’t make the fourth down, you’re kicking yourself.
“They made some good plays in the second half. That was really the difference in the game ... they made the big plays.”
LeMay broke off runs of 41 and 63 yards to set up two first-quarter touchdowns as Charlotte took a 12-7 lead. LeMay had 106 yards in the first quarter and scored his first career TD on the 3-yard pass from Klugh. Klugh scored the 49ers’ first TD on a 3-yard carry – his third rushing TD of the season.
Klugh capped a seven-play, 80-yard second-quarter drive with a 23-yard TD run around the right side to open the second quarter. The 49ers went ahead by 19, 26-7, late in the first half on Klugh’s 8-yard TD carry to complete a 15-play, 89-yard drive, but FIU scored in the final minute on a 6-yard pass from Alex McGough to Thomas Owens to make it 26-14.
Charlotte rushed for 277 yards and three TDs in the first half, led by LeMay, who had 134 yards on nine carries and Klugh, who rushed for 79 yards and all three TDs to give the 49ers a 26-14 lead at halftime. Klugh has figured in each of the 49ers’ first 10 TDs this year, passing for five and rushing for five.
Charlotte’s Jackson Vansickle kicked a season-best 39-yard field goal midway through the third quarter following Juwan Foggie’s diving interception to make it 29-14, but FIU answered with two TD runs from McGough to close to within 29-27 early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought they made a nice adjustment on (our running game),” Lambert said. “We would move the ball a little bit and then it would stall out. We just gave up too many big plays in the second half.”
With 178 yards rushing, LeMay notched his second 100-yard rushing game this season and the 49ers’ third of the season. Klugh’s 107-yard rushing effort was his second 100-yard game this season, as well. Charlotte has had five 100-yard performances (four rushing; one receiving), this year.
“We just have to finish,” said Klugh. “They definitely stepped up and made a lot of changes – we just got to to execute on every drive. Everything is there, we just have to execute.
“Benny’s elusive. He runs downhill. That’s a great thing that we have to get our running game going.”
FIU quarterback Alex McGough was 14-of-26 for 206 yards passing and one TD and rushed for two for the Panthers.
Charlotte hosts Marshall next Saturday, the 49ers’ first C-USA home game this season. The teams have split their two meetings with the road team winning each game. Charlotte scored a 27-24 victory at Marshall last year.
FIU 30, Charlotte 29
CHA—Klugh 3 run (pass failed), 12:27
CHA—B.LeMay 3 pass from Klugh (kick failed), 8:42
FIU—J.Williams 35 pass from Owens (Borregales kick), 6:16
CHA—Klugh 23 run (VanSickle kick), 12:59
CHA—Klugh 8 run (VanSickle kick), 2:51
FIU—Owens 6 pass from A.McGough (Borregales kick), :43
CHA—FG VanSickle 39, 7:57
FIU—A.McGough 8 run (Borregales kick), 5:40
FIU—A.McGough 14 run (pass failed), 12:43
FIU—FG Borregales 27, 7:22
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Charlotte, B.LeMay 22-178, Klugh 15-107, McAllister 12-64. FIU, Maxwell 5-76, Gardner 16-62, S.Phillips 13-52, A.McGough 6-46, (Team) 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Charlotte, Klugh 16-28-0-155. FIU, Owens 1-1-0-35, A.McGough 14-26-1-206.
RECEIVING—Charlotte, Tyler 4-34, Bostick 3-36, Kofa 3-33, B.LeMay 2-16, Mullen 2-14, U.LeMay 1-15, Quattlebaum 1-7. FIU, Owens 7-101, J.Williams 3-59, Maloney 2-67, S.Phillips 2-12, Gaiter 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Charlotte, Macauley 48.