Charlotte falls just short in quest for fifth win
The Charlotte 49ers football team was unable to keep the momentum rolling in the second half as they narrowly dropped a 22-21 decision to the Rice Owls (2-8). The Niners (4-6), who were looking for their fifth win on the season, piled up 21 points in the first half, but they were held scoreless in the second as the Owls came all the way back.
Things started off well for the Niners, as they forced the Owls into three-and-outs on their first two drives while scoring on their own second drive. Senior tailback Kalif Phillips ran in a 14-yard touchdown at the 6:54 mark of the first frame, capping off an eight play, 71-yard drive. Phillips rushed 20 times for 87 yards and the aforementioned touchdown and piled up 116 total all-purpose yards.
In the second quarter, Charlotte quarterback Hasaan Klugh found receiver Workpe Kofa for another 14-yard touchdown that extended the Niner lead to 14-0. Kofa’s touchdown reception capped off another successful drive that had started at the end of the first frame. Klugh finished the game 11-25 for 94 yards and also rushed for 66 more.
Meanwhile, Rice couldn’t get anything going. After multiple three-and-outs and punts from both teams, Charlotte defensive back Anthony Convington picked off Tyler Stehling’s pass. Charlotte didn’t capitalize on the turnover, but one drive later, the defense came up with another big play. This time, Stehling threw a pick to Terrance Winchester, who returned the ball all the way to the house to give Charlotte a 21-0 lead.
Also, on the defensive side of the ball, Ed Rolle and Ben DeLuca led the way with 12 and 11 tackles respectively. Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi added six tackles, Winchester and Covington both tallied interceptionsand Randy Suydam got two tackles for a loss, including the lone sack.
“The coaches are just calling good plays for us, and the offense gave us what we liked. It always works out in my favor. I’m just making the play, and it’s all based on the calls from the coaches,” Winchester said.
However, after Stehling’s second pick, Rice’s offense got on a roll. Stehling drove the offense down the field, and Rice knocked in a field goal for their first points. Then, with only 52 ticks left in the half, Stehling found Temi Alaka in the end zone for a three yard touchdown. All of a sudden, Charlotte’s lead was cut to 21-10.
As the third quarter rolled along, both teams struggled to score, but Stehling began making up for lost time. The Rice quarterback began picking up yards on the ground, keeping drives alive. The Owls finally scored on Stehling’s 17-yard scamper with 4:26 remaining in the third. The owls only got six on the play though, failing the two-point conversion.
In the fourth, Rice continued to have long drives without scoring. Meanwhile, the Niners couldn’t move the ball, which resulted in two straight punts. Finally, with only 2:53 remaining, Stehling scored on another run, this time from one yard out. Again, the two-point conversion failed, leaving the score in Rice’s favor at 22-21.
Charlotte got the ball back, but were unable to move the ball within field goal range. A negative rush and incomplete passes stalled the drive, and Rice got the ball back and ran out the clock.
“We couldn’t get him corralled in the backfield,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said of Stehling. “The disappointing thing for me is we had him in the backfield and didn’t finish him. He’s a big, strong guy and got out of some sacks I thought we should’ve made.”
Charlotte seeks redemption at home next Saturday at 2 p.m. when they take on Middle Tennessee.