Charleston Southern sinks Charlotte 49ers 47-41 in overtime

The Charlotte 49ers are probably happy not to have Charleston Southern and its triple-option offense on their schedule anymore.

A year after the Buccaneers rolled up more than 500 yards against the 49ers in a game in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Charleston Southern tacked on 617 total yards Saturday in a 47-41 overtime victory before a crowd of 14,498 at Richardson Stadium.

Christian Reyes’ 1-yard scoring run on Charleston Southern’s first overtime possession won it for the Buccaneers (5-0), who had lost all of a 17-point second-half lead.

The 49ers (3-2) forced overtime when linebacker Nico Alcalde blocked a field-goal attempt by Charleston Southern’s David Kennedy as time expired.

But when Charlotte’s Blake Brewer missed a 30-yard field-goal try in overtime, the stage was set for the Buccaneers to finally finish off the 49ers.

Charleston Southern led 34-17 midway through the third quarter, after having taken advantage of three 49ers turnovers in the first half.

“It’s very tough,” said Charlotte quarterback Matt Johnson, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. “We fought all the way down to end, but we had too many mistakes, too many gifts in the first half. It looks like we played (well) the whole game, but we didn’t.”

Several individual offensive records fell for the 49ers, including Kalif Phillips’ 196 yards rushing and Austin Duke’s 12 catches for 251 yards. Phillips’ 77-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest scoring play from scrimmage in school history, while Duke’s 74-yard pass from Johnson was the longest scoring reception.

But those kinds of numbers weren’t enough to overcome the Buccaneers, ranked 25th in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches’ poll. Reyes, who gained 181 yards against Charlotte last season in the first of the schools’ home-and-home series, again punished the 49ers with 159 yards and three touchdowns.

Perhaps the most striking statistic of the game was time of possession, with the Buccaneers enjoying a 41:52-18:08 advantage. The quick-striking 49ers scored touchdowns on drives lasting 35 seconds, 25 seconds, 2:33, 23 seconds and 1:34. They finished the game with 573 total yards.

Charleston Southern, on the other hand, had two drives that lasted more than 6 minutes (6:17 an 8:40).

“I expected them have time of possession, but we don’t really pay too much attention to that,” Lambert said. “They’re a top offense. But we’ve got to get off the field more as a defense.”

After the Buccaneers went up 34-17 on a 4-yard run by Reyes with 8:34 left in the third quarter, the 49ers quickly got back into it. Johnson scored on a 23-yard run, followed by a 25-yard field goal by Brewer. That cut the lead to 34-27 after three quarters.

The 49ers tied it on another long pass from Johnson to Duke – this one 61 yards – early in the fourth quarter. The teams then swapped touchdowns down the stretch, with Charleston Southern briefly retaking the lead on a 5-yard pass from Austin Brown to Nathan Perera. Phillips’ third touchdown of the day tied it at 41-41.

The Buccaneers had a chance to win it in regulation, but Alcalde broke through to swat away Kennedy’s 38-yard field goal attempt.

The 49ers had momentum, but mistakes would again cost them in overtime.

“I felt good about being 25 yards from the goal line,” said Johnson, who rushed for 80 yards. “That’s what our offense is made for.”

Charlotte got the ball first, but a holding penalty on guard Mason Sledge wiped out a 12-yard run to the 1 by Johnson. The 49ers had to eventually settle for a 30-yard field-goal attempt by Brewer, but it sailed left.

That turned the ball over to Charleston Southern. After a 22-yard run by Mike Holloway, Reyes did the rest.

“Our guys will be back,” said Lambert, whose team plays at Gardner-Webb next week. “It’s hard and it hurts. You don’t ever want that feeling.”

Related stories from Charlotte Observer