Charlotte picked up 439 rushing yards and 141 passing yards for a total of 580 en route to a 61-17 victory over Morehead State on Saturday afternoon at Jayne Stadium. The season finale for both programs was the first-ever meeting between the schools.
The 49ers, a Football Championship Subdivision Independent that will begin play in Conference USA in 2015, snap a four-game skid to finish the season 5-6. The Eagles, who play in the Pioneer Football League, close out the year with five straight setbacks and a 3-9 record.
Charlotte had two players crack 100 rushing yards, while two others were 86-or-better. Freshman quarterback Matt Johnson tallied 105 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, while sophomore running back Damarrell Alexander added 101 yards and one score on six attempts.
"Give Charlotte a lot of credit," Head Coach Rob Tenyer said. "We knew they were long, athletic and well coached, and those areas were obvious today. They made several big plays and we didn't. They are a program on the rise, and I think they will eventually do well in Conference USA."
Freshman running back Brandon Reeves led Morehead State with 120 ground yards on 17 attempts. Freshman quarterback Austin Gahafer finished 31-of-53 for 187 yards and one touchdown. Senior defensive lineman Aaron Meadows registered a career-best 10 tackles in his last game.
"It's obvious our program has a ways to go on the field, but I'm still pretty excited and optimistic about our future," Tenyer said. "This was a character-building year for us. We had eight coaches new to Morehead State and a ton of young players who were in critical roles for us on game day."
Morehead State jumped out to a 7-0 advantage on Saturday, but Charlotte responded with 34 consecutive points to grab all the momentum it needed. The 49ers held a 41-10 lead at intermission.
Charlotte managed six touchdowns of 30+ yards (4 runs, 1 pass and 1 interception) on the afternoon. The 49ers found the end zone in five straight possessions during the first and second quarters.
Morehead State tallied a 92 to 66 edge in total plays and 33:13 to 26:47 upper hand in possession time, but Charlotte notched four kick returns for 127 yards and two interceptions for 70 yards.
"I'm sure our fans are disappointed, and I can assure you there's a ton of disappointment in our locker room right now," Tenyer said. "The type of season we had in 2013 is not good enough and we all know that. We will work hard to improve as we begin preparing for the 2014 season."
MSU freshman linebacker C.J. Wall was credited with nine tackles in his first collegiate start.
Junior linebacker Caleb Clayton-Molby collected a game-high 12 stops for Charlotte, while senior linebacker Mark Hogan contributed 11. Clayton-Molby returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown, while Hogan managed a pair of tackles for loss. Both players also forced a fumble.
Meadows, defensive back John Coleman, defensive back Steven Lester, defensive lineman Corey McSweeney, offensive lineman Kalvin Harrington and tight end Jason Rider were all recognized prior to the game as part of Senior Day. Coleman paced the Eagles in tackles this year with 76.
"Hats off to our six seniors," Tenyer said. "I really wanted us to win their final game, but it didn't work out that way. John, Steven, Corey, Kalvin, Jason and Aaron have given a lot to this program, and I am so grateful. I will always remember them as the leaders of my first team as a head coach."
Butler and Marist tied atop the league standings this season at 7-1. The Bulldogs won the tiebreaker and have earned the conference's tiebreaker for the NCAA Playoffs.
"Our atmosphere and culture have changed for the better," Tenyer said. "Now, it's just a matter of getting back on the road and recruiting football players who can help us win games. We have a terrific staff in place, and all of us will do everything we can to help our young men be successful."
Check MSUEagles.com throughout the off-season for updates on Morehead State football.
"I can't thank our fans enough for their continued support," Tenyer added. "The Morehead State family is pretty special, and that's one of the reasons why I wanted the head coaching job here. We have some terrific supporters in this community and throughout the country. I can't say enough about what they do for us, through thick and thin. We have re-connected with our former players and that will continue to be a point of emphasis moving forward as well."