CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All game long, Marshall had no answer for Charlotte wide receiver Victor Tucker.
Tucker scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns — the final coming on a fourth-and-9 play late — to seal a 24-13 win for Charlotte over the Thundering Herd on a soggy Saturday at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
“Give Charlotte credit. They did a hell of a job,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We did not play well offensively at all. We turned the ball over three times and just could not get it going offensively and they did.”
Charlotte (6-5, 4-3 Conference USA) outgained the Herd 422-230. Tucker was the catalyst with 121 yards receiving while also drawing four defensive penalties that led to first downs — three on third-down situations.
Tucker’s 5-yard scoring run with 10:47 remaining gave Charlotte a lead it would not relinquish before he capped the game with a touchdown catch in single coverage against Marshall’s Chris Jackson with under a minute remaining.
The game was played in a steady downpour throughout the game that may have washed away Marshall’s chances of a Conference USA East Division title.
The elements may have been tough, but Holliday did not use that as an excuse following the loss, saying it came down to execution.
“They played in the same elements we did and they did a better job than we did, that’s for sure,” Holliday said.
While the loss snapped Marshall’s five-game winning streak, Charlotte’s victory extends the 49ers’ win streak to four games and makes them bowl-eligible for the first time in program history.
Marshall (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) needs a Florida Atlantic loss and a win next week over FIU to have a shot at the East Division crown.
“It’s difficult because we put in a lot of work to accomplish that goal and to take a step backward toward that goal is not a good feeling,” Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green said. “We’ll be fine, though. Everybody will keep their head up and focus on winning next week — controlling what we can control.”
MU was simply beaten at its own game as Charlotte’s defense stymied the Herd offense and Marshall could not stop the 49ers’ offense, led by Tucker, quarterback Chris Reynolds and running back Benny LeMay.
Reynolds finished with 166 yards through the air and 145 rushing while LeMay — who passed the 3,000-yard milestone for his career in the win — also rushed for 100 yards.
While Charlotte was able to get its main receiving target, Tucker, involved, Marshall was unable to get any receiver going. The Herd did not complete a pass to a wide receiver until there were 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Green finished just 6 of 17 for 86 yards and two interceptions.
“We had some trouble with the rain — had a couple drops, some bad throws,” Green said. “We just left too many plays out there for us to win the game.”
Perhaps the biggest play in the game was a dropped opportunity for the Herd near Charlotte’s goal line that would have restored momentum for the Herd.
After Charlotte used a Jonathan Cruz field goal to tie the game at 10 on the opening possession of the second half, Marshall drove deep into Charlotte territory. However, tight end Devin Miller dropped a would-be touchdown after Green kept a play alive. The Herd had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Justin Rohrwasser.
With plays in the passing game limited, the drop was magnified. Marshall took a 13-10 lead, but the momentum was with the 49ers after the Herd’s missed opportunity.
“Going in to score down there in the score zone, we had the one drop that was a big play,” Holliday said. “We have to overcome that, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Marshall went into the locker room with a 10-7 lead but had to survive a missed 39-yard field goal by Charlotte’s Jonathan Cruz before the break to do so.
Prior to that, the 49ers had built momentum on offense behind the play of Reynolds and Tucker.
Tucker had 84 yards receiving in the first half and drew a key pass interference penalty on third down that prolonged a touchdown drive, capped by Reynolds’ 16-yard scoring run.
The Herd jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter with special teams accounting for all of Marshall’s first-half points.
With the rain coming down, Marshall’s Darius Hodge snuck through the Charlotte protection and blocked a punt from Connor Bowler, and Joe Early scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown.
Rohrwasser then hit the first of his two 31-yard field goals to produce the two-score cushion.
Marshall running back Brenden Knox finished with 92 yards rushing in the loss. Defensively, Tavante Beckett added 15 tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for the Herd.