The Pickaxe Logo Bowl went to Charlotte as the 49ers shook off a sluggish first half to defeat UTEP 38-28 and improve to 2-2 on the season with their second straight win. Victor Tucker had six receptions for 86 yards and had the tying score with 26 seconds left in the opening half to help lead Charlotte to a Conference USA win.
1. Mistakes proved to be the difference. The 49ers won the turnover battle 3-0 and scored 14 points off them in a 10-point win. Tyler Murray’s first quarter interception was particularly big, giving the 49ers the ball deep in UTEP territory and leading to a touchdown that tied the game early while Charlotte’s offense struggled to find its footing in the first half.
2. Somehow, Charlotte entered halftime tied 14-14. UTEP had dominated play much of the opening half, leading by seven with just over five minutes remaining and having held the 49ers to just 11 plays and 24 yards on their first three drives. But the game swung on Charlotte’s next possession, with quarterback Chris Reynolds and the 49ers offense putting together a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tucker to even the game.
That was all the momentum Charlotte needed. The 49ers stopped UTEP on its first five drives of the second half, forcing two turnovers and turning what was once a seven-point deficit into a 17-point lead.
3. The 49ers have back-to-back-wins heading into next week’s visit to Duke. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were off this week, giving them extra time to prepare for Charlotte. The game could very well come down to turnovers. The 49ers are now plus-4 in turnover margin after three takeaways and no giveaways on Saturday, while 1-5 Duke is minus-11. If the Blue Devils continue to make so many mistakes — see quarterback Chase Brice’s 11 interceptions — it could open the door for Charlotte to get the program’s first win over a Power 5 school.
Number to know
336 — Days since Charlotte had played a home game, dating back to the 49ers’ 24-13 win over Marshall on Nov. 23, 2019. Saturday’s win also improved coach Will Healy to 6-1 at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
Player of the Game
Victor Tucker, Charlotte receiver — The 49ers’ top receiver came through again, leading the offense with six receptions for 86 yards and a score that proved to be the turning point in the game.
Charlotte had a 17-point with 4:40 left in the game after Micaleous Elder scored a 13-yard touchdown, but the 49ers seemed to take their foot off the gas after that. The Miners scored twice in the final three minutes in what proved to be nothing more than stat-padding — especially after Aaron McAllister’s 36-yard TD run after the first UTEP score. Still, Charlotte can’t afford any lapses in concentration against Duke on Halloween night.