Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte 49ers) – Marshall scored 28 straight points to break open a 14-14 game on its way to a 49-28 victory over Charlotte in Conference USA action Saturday before a crowd of 13,211 at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
The loss keeps Charlotte (5-6; C-USA: 3-4) one win away from earning bowl eligibility while Marshall (7-4; C-USA: 5-2) kept alive its chances to claim the C-USA East Division title.
“(Marshall is) going to go compete for a conference championship next week,” said 49ers head coach Will Healy, “and they looked like a team that was ready to compete for a conference championship tonight.”
Charlotte had tied the game, 14-14 on quarterback Chris Reynolds’ second touchdown pass of the first half – a 21-yarder to roommate Cameron Dollar with 4:13 to play in the second quarter.
Marshall, however, answered with a 64-yard TD pass to Corey Gammage to move ahead 21-14 at the break and then scored TDs on its three possessions in the third quarter to pull in front, 42-14.
“In the first half we got a couple defensive stops and I was excited thinking we’d be able to do more of the same in the second,” Healy said. “Obviously the turnover at the end of the first half –that’s not acceptable. Can’t give talented football teams gifts. In the second half, we weren’t able to get stops.”
Marshall running back Rasheen Ali rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Grant Wells was an efficient 21-of-28 for 267 yards and two TDs. Ali and running mate Sheldon Evans each had a 25-yard TD run and Wells threw TD passes of 64 yards to Gammage and 22 yards to Xavier Gaines.
“The explosive plays were all over the place,” Healy said. “It was harder for us. We did create a bunch of explosive plays but it was definitely harder for us and then we turned the ball over twice. We can’t give them gifts on top of it.”
After taking the 21-14 lead on Gammage’s 64-yard TD, Marshall scored three times in the third quarter beginning with Gaines’ TD catch on the first possession.
Marshall picked off a Reynolds’ pass at their own five-yard line and drove 95 yards for another score. A 59-yard run from Ali sent the Herd into the redzone where Evans scored on a 15-yard scamper. Ali added a 4-yard TD run late in the third to push the lead to 42-14.
Reynolds and Dollar connected for a second touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and the teams traded TDs in the final nine minutes.
Reynolds finished the game with three TD passes, giving him a single-season school record of 24, this year. Dollar had four catches for 50 yards and the two TDs while Keith Pearson Jr. opened the scoring with his third TD catch in the last two games. Grant DuBose led the 49er receivers with six catches for 70 yards.
Safety Jon Alexander and linebacker Luke Martin led Charlotte’s defense with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Charlotte plays at Old Dominion in the regular-season finale, next Saturday at 2 p.m.