The Charlotte 49ers played the WKU Hilltoppers close for the first quarter, but suffered numerous injuries and surrendered 24 second-quarter points to falter 45-14 on the road. Aaron McAllister recorded his first career start at running back for the Niners, and the redshirt freshman finished with 157 yards on the ground and both of Charlotte’s touchdown runs. McAllister filled in for the injured Benny LeMay.
Meanwhile, quarterback Mike White went 33-47 for 398 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions for Western Kentucky. Kylen Towner caught six of those passes for 111 yards, and Deon Yelder caught seven passes for 92 yards to lead the WKU receivers. Charlotte’s Brooks Barden, who filled in for Hasaan Klugh (illness), went 9-18 for 61 yards and an interception, but recorded a 77-yard scamper later in the second half. He finished with 89 yards rushing.
“We ran into a better team. … We were down eight starters, so it just gets tough on us, depth-wise, when you lose that many guys,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “We’ve got to figure out how to throw the ball down the field. Everybody’s loading the box on us, trying to stop the run. We’ve got to push the ball down the field… in our secondary, we’ve got to keep the ball in front of us.”
In addition to Klugh and LeMay being out, Karrington King went down with a leg injury in the second quarter. Determined, other 49ers stepped up. Ben DeLuca recorded his second straight double-digit tackling game, as he finished with 10 takedowns and a forced fumble. Alex Highsmith, Denzel Irving and Quinton Jordan all registered eight tackles apiece. Juwan Foggie had seven tackles, as did King, before he got hurt.
The Hilltoppers got things started after a long, six-minute drive resulted in White’s first touchdown pass of the evening to go up a score. McAllister went right to work soonafter, as the Niners moved the ball and McAllister scored his first touchdown on a nine-yard run to tie the score at the 3:49 mark. However, less than two minutes later, White and Yelder hooked up on a huge 59-yard pass play that gave WKU the 14-7 lead–and the momentum– heading into the second quarter.
In the second frame, White took it upon himself to score on a two-yard run four minutes in. McAllister’s 89-yard touchdown run narrowed the gap to 21-14 less than a minute later, but Charlotte would get no closer. WKU scored 17 unanswered points the rest of the half, as White had two touchdown passes and Ryan Nuss knocked home a 43-yard field goal. The Hilltoppers led 38-14 at the half.
Neither team was able to muster any points in the third quarter, but White recorded his final touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage of the fourth frame. White’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Jacquez Sloan provided the final margin of 45-14, and the Hilltopper defense held on the rest of the way.
Mark Quattlebaum had another strong performance for Charlotte, as the slot receiver finished with five receptions for 34 yards. Quarterback Joe Thompson also got to see some action for Charlotte, and the defense finished with seven tackles-for-loss (led by Highsmith’s four).
“We need to get those passes on short downs, create a run, and if we get a good run, it’ll open [things] up for the receivers,” McAllister said. “Just keep pushing, keep fighting,”
Charlotte returns home next week for its homecoming game versus the UAB Blazers at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on BEIN Sports, and the team will have the following week off.