Charlotte’s football team has had a number of “firsts” in its three-year history, save for one thing – its first conference win.
The 49ers came close Saturday, going into overtime before losing to Conference USA opponent Texas-San Antonio 30-27 at Richardson Stadium.
Daniel Portillo’s 22-yard field goal in the Roadrunners’ overtime possession ended Charlotte’s hopes of getting its first conference win, and extended the 49ers’ losing streak to eight games.
“We made enough plays to win the game,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “The kids were playing hard, really getting after it. It just came down to a few plays there at the end.”
With leading rusher Kalif Phillips going out of Saturday’s game early with a knee injury, it fell to Charlotte’s maligned quarterbacks – who had thrown a league-worst 19 interceptions this season – to keep the 49ers’ offense moving.
For the most part, they delivered – starter Brooks Barden had 127 yards passing and one touchdown, and No. 2 quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 116 yards and two scores.
However, Johnson threw a key interception in the end zone on Charlotte’s first overtime possession. Five plays layer, Portillo connected for the game-winner, ending San Antonio’s four-game losing streak.
The 49ers (2-8, 0-7) were leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter after Blake Brewer’s 41-yard field goal with 11:53 left. But a missed Brewer field goal two minutes later set up a Roadrunners scoring drive for a 27-24 lead.
It took another Brewer field goal – this one a 37-yarder with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter – to send the game into overtime.
Three who mattered
Kalif Phillips: The 49ers’ running game felt his absence. The junior back needed just 49 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight year, but went down with a knee injury on his third carry. Phillips’ status for next week is unknown.
Richard Murphy: Charlotte’s senior tight end had a career day, with four receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns. His 8-yard catch from Johnson late in the second quarter gave the 49ers a 7-0 halftime lead, and an 18-yarder from Barden early in the third quarter put them ahead 14-7.
Jarveon Williams: Provided a lot of San Antonio’s offensive punch in the second half, running for 150 of his game-high 181 yards over the final two quarters. He scored on a 24-yard run early in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-14, and his 68-yard dash set up Jalen Rhodes’ 8-yard run.
▪ Both teams missed long field goals in Saturday’s game – Brewer pulled a 52-yarder left late in the first quarter, while Portillo missed on a 44-yarder early in the second quarter.
▪ Charlotte’s defense did have its moments against San Antonio. The secondary came up with three first-half interceptions, tying a school record, and the front came up with five sacks on Roadrunners quarterback Dalton Sturm. Nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi had 10 tackles, including a career-best 4 1/2 for a loss.
▪ One area that hurt Charlotte against the Roadrunners was penalties. The 49ers got called nine times for 110 penalty yards, with three coming on plays that would have ended San Antonio drives.
▪ Defensive back Terrance Winchester’s first-quarter interception set a 49ers’ single-season record for takeaways. His third pick of the season – which also tied the school record – gave Winchester his fifth takeaway, which includes a pair of recovered fumbles.
▪ Phillips wore Charlotte’s honorary No. 49 jersey in Saturday’s game instead of his usual No. 3. Each game, the 49ers’ coaches select a player to wear the jersey. This is the second time Phillips has worn the No. 49 in his career, wearing the jersey in last year’s game against Wesley.
▪ During pregame ceremonies, 12 Charlotte players, all seniors –Murphy, Danny Book, Andrew Buie, Caleb Clayton-Molby, Branden Dozier, Desmond Floyd, Eric Herkley, Ardy Holmes, Devon Johnson, Cortezz Nixon, Zach Thomas and Joe Wolljung – were honored before playing their final home game.
▪ Charlotte wraps up its 2015 schedule with a pair of road games – at Kentucky on Nov. 21, and against C-USA opponent Rice on Nov. 28.
They said it: “The game came down to those penalties. You’re off the field two or three times, and you’ve got penalties to stay out there defensively. That’s a discipline issue. I’ve got to get that corrected. I can’t allow that to happen.” – Lambert.
“Oh, (the conference win) is going to come. We’ve got Rice at the end of the month, and it’s going to come. We’re going to prepare our tails off, and get ourselves ready to be in position to win that game.” – Murphy.