It took two penalty flags on the final play before Elon could finally claim a 20-13 victory against the Charlotte 49ers at Rhodes Stadium.
49ers quarterback Matt Johnson threw what appeared to be a 22-yard touchdown pass to Corey Nesmith on the final play. But two infractions – a holding call on Charlotte and Johnson throwing after he crossed the line of scrimmage – nullified the play.
The loss dropped Charlotte to 3-1. Elon is 1-2.
Elon got its game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Mike Quinn to Kierre Brown with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left.
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And Elon extinguished any hopes Charlotte had of tying it when linebacker Odell Benton intercepted a Johnson pass on the 49ers’ next possession.
After scoring an early touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Johnson to Austin Duke, Charlotte’s offense was held in check for much of the remainder of the first half.
After that touchdown – in which Johnson hit Duke with a sharp pass over the middle – the 49ers went three-and-out on their next three possessions, and a fourth possession ended when Elon linebacker Jonathan Spain intercepted a Johnson pass. The 49ers managed all of 9 yards in those four possessions.
Elon tied it at 7 on a 14-yard pass from Quinn to Brown (like Charlotte’s Duke, a former Independence High player) with 4:08 left in the half.
The 49ers’ offense got back on track later in the second quarter, but nothing came of it. Starting at Elon’s 11 with 5 minutes, 43 seconds left in the half, Charlotte drove the ball to the Phoenix 1. The 49ers got there thanks to the running of Johnson (who had four running plays called for him), tailback Kalif Phillips and Duke (who went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career during the drive).
But Phillips was stopped at the goal line on a fourth-and-goal, leaving the game tied at halftime.
Elon, which had just 53 yards in total offense in the first quarter, outgained the 49ers 197-169 in the first half.
Elon led 13-10 after three quarters, with the Phoenix’s Gallagher kicking field goals of 24 and 26 yards in the third quarter and Charlotte’s Blake Brewer hitting one from 27 yards.
But after Gallagher missed his third field-goal attempt of the game – a 49-yarder early in the fourth quarter – Brewer tied it at 13 by making one from 43 yards with 11:17 left.
But Elon had a significant advantage in time of possession in the third quarter, and the 49ers defense began to wear down.
The game was played before a crowd of 11,203, the third largest in Rhodes Stadium history. The 49ers return home to Richardson Stadium next Saturday to face the Big South’s Charleston Southern.