The Charlotte 49ers’ game-winning, streak-busting two-point conversion in a 25-24 overtime victory against Ala.-Birmingham on Saturday will go down as one of the program’s most memorable plays – perhaps matched only by linebacker Mark Hogan’s pick six on the second play of program history in 2013.
The two-point call by coach Brad Lambert against UAB was gutsy on two levels. First, the decision came after the 49ers had already come from behind by 17 points in the second half, then again after UAB had scored on its first overtime possession.
Rather than going for a relatively safe point-after kick, Lambert risked undoing everything that was accomplished from the rally.
Then there was the play call.
It unfolded when quarterback Hasaan Klugh handed off to tailback Benny LeMay, who tossed the ball to receiver Chris Montgomery. Instead of running with it, Montgomery stopped and threw it to a wide-open Klugh in the end zone.
Montgomery, who was a quarterback at Burns High, was asked after the game what he thought when he heard the play call.
“A lot,” he said. “A lot was going through my mind.”
Lambert, sitting next to Montgomery, interjected: “That coach is crazy!”
Lambert was just crazy enough to make a decision that would pull his team out of the doldrums that came from what was a 10-game losing streak that had stretched over two seasons, the longest in the nation, and, among other things, earned the 49ers (1-7, 1-3 Conference USA) the top spot in ESPN.com’s tongue-in-cheek “Bottom 10” rankings.
Lambert said he made his decision to go for it in a vacuum; he wasn’t thinking about what it would mean to the program’s overall health and the message it might send if it worked. Only that he had a good feeling about the play and that he didn’t want to give the Blazers another chance to score.
Indeed, Montgomery’s pass to Klugh topped off what had started out looking like just another desultory performance for Charlotte, which continues to find its way in its second season in the FBS.
UAB led 17-0 in the third quarter, but the Blazers’ advantage gradually came undone.
‘Game was on the line’
Three plays were key to the 49ers:
▪ After Klugh (who had a huge game with 294 total yards) had cut the lead to 17-7 with a 9-yard touchdown run, he hit Trent Bostick with a momentum-shifting 68-yard scoring pass, making it 17-14 with 10 minutes, 34 seconds left.
▪ On UAB’s next possession, 49ers safety Ben DeLuca made the defensive play of the game, wrestling the ball away from Blazers tailback Spencer Brown and returning it 26 yards to the Blazers 31. Charlotte, which now has seven fumble recoveries this season, capitalized and tied it 17-17 when Nigel Macauley hit a 24-yard field goal with 6:27 left.
▪ The Blazers scored on their first overtime possession, and things looked pretty bleak for the 49ers when they faced a fourth-and-6 from the 7. But Klugh, who made big play after big play all night, scrambled for those 6 yards, picking up the first down and setting up his 1-yard touchdown run on the next play.
“I knew the vicinity of where the (first-down) sticks were,” said Klugh. “The game was on the line.”
That set up the play that will live in 49ers lore.
Next: Old Dominion after week off
The 49ers have this week off, returning Nov. 4 for a C-USA game at Old Dominion (2-5, 0-3), another program that recently made the jump to FBS and is riding a five-game losing streak heading into a game Saturday at North Texas.
And for the first time this season, Charlotte will be without the burden of playing with its own long losing streak.
Charlotte 25, UAB 24
UAB—Pittman 12 pass from Erdely (Vogel kick), 13:15.
UAB—Erdely 3 run (Vogel kick), 2:20.
UAB—FG 25 Vogel, 10:25.
CHA—Klugh 9 run (Macauley kick), 3:16.
CHA—Bostick 68 pass from Klugh (Macauley kick), 10:34.
CHA—FG 24 Macauley, 6:27.
UAB – Erdely 1 run (Vogel kick)
CHA – Klugh 1 run (Klugh pass from Montgomery)
Time of Possession
RUSHING—UAB, S.Brown 16-71, Erdely 10-41, Noble 2-30, Lee 4-21, Haden 1-(minus 1). Charlotte, Klugh 25-140, McAllister 10-38, B.LeMay 9-29, Mullen 2-8, K.Duncan 2-4, Montgomery 1-3.
PASSING—UAB, Erdely 21-29-0-182. Charlotte, Klugh 14-28-2-154.
RECEIVING—UAB, A.Wilson 5-45, R.Turner 5-39, Copeland 2-47, S.Brown 2-14, Walker 2-10, Haden 2-9, Pittman 1-12, Lisa 1-7, Lee 1-(minus 1). Charlotte, Ford 3-27, Kofa 3-19, Bostick 2-70, Quattlebaum 2-23, Montgomery 2-(minus 4), Tyler 1-15, Mullen 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.