Middle Tennessee’s big-play offense shredded the Charlotte 49ers on the way to a 35-21 Conference USA victory Saturday at Richardson Stadium.
The loss was the second in a row for the 49ers (1-9, 1-5). The triumph put the Blue Raiders (5-5, 3-3) one step closer to bowl eligibility.
The 49ers scored on their first possessions of each half, but otherwise couldn’t keep pace with Middle Tennessee and quarterback Brent Stockstill, who threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns. After Charlotte opened the scoring on a 16-yard run by sophomore running back Benny LeMay, the Raiders answered with four consecutive scores to take a 28-7 halftime lead.
Stockstill hooked up with Ty Lee for two long passing plays – one a 40-yarder that led to the Raiders’ first touchdown and the other a 63-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-7 with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half.
The 49ers had several untimely penalties (a total of seven for 78 yards). A face-mask penalty against linebacker Markevis Davis extended the Raiders’ first touchdown drive. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Davis and receiver Workpeh Kofa also hurt Charlotte.
The 49ers opened the second half by scoring on their first possession, a 3-yard pass from quarterback Hasaan Klugh to Mark Quattlebaum, to trim Middle Tennessee’s lead to 28-14. But the 49ers, whose only triumph came Oct. 21 against Ala.-Birmingham, couldn’t get any closer.
Klugh, who played with his left ankle taped after he injured it last week against Old Dominion, threw for a career-high 258 yards and two touchdowns. But the Raiders also sacked Klugh twice, limiting him to minus-14 yards rushing. The Raiders made no secret of the fact before the game that they wanted Klugh to beat them with his arm, not his legs.
Three who mattered
Brent Stockstill: The Raiders’ quarterback, in his second game back after missing six due to an an injury, was excellent, completing 18-of-31 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
Tavares Thomas: The 49ers prepared mostly for Stockstill and the passing game. Thomas, the Raiders’ junior tailback, punished Charlotte on the ground, picking up 195 yards and scoring twice.
Mark Quattlebaum: Charlotte’s junior receiver caught seven passes for a career-high 94 yards and a touchdown.
▪ The 49ers’ first mistake of the game also happened to help them. Nate Mullen muffed a Raiders punt, the ball bouncing 10 yards and out of bounds at the Middle Tennessee 48. The 49ers scored their only touchdown of the first half five plays later on a 16-yard run by LeMay.
▪ The Raiders’ first touchdown – a 2-yard run by Thomas in the first quarter – was the first touchdown allowed by Charlotte in 22 regulation possessions.
▪ 49ers safety Ben DeLuca had eight tackles, moving into fifth place in program history in career tackles. He left the game in the second half with a concussion, as did defensive end Zack Duncan.
▪ Middle Tennessee caught a break when a call was reversed that originally had Stockstill fumbling while attempting a pass in the second quarter. The 49ers might have had the ball in Raiders territory. Instead, it was ruled that Stockstill’s arm was going forward and an incomplete pass. Middle Tennessee went on to score five plays later.
▪ The 49ers’ field-goal kicking situation is dire. Charlotte is down to third-stringer Kyle Corbett, who replaced Nigel Macauley after Macauley missed a 36-yard attempt in the the second quarter. It was Macauley’s seventh miss in 10 tries this season. Backup Jackson VanSickle is one-of-two. Corbett kicked the extra points on Charlotte’s two second-half touchdowns.
“We’re not going to embarrass our school with those penalties in the first half.” – 49ers coach Brad Lambert.
“We just run the same routes we do in practice, and when it’s time to execute, I do the best I can to execute.” – Quattlebaum.
“I feel like it’s a broken record; we come back in the second half when things start clicking for us.” – Charlotte linebacker Jeff Gemmell.
David Scott: @davidscott14