Chris Reynolds threw a game-winning, 11-yard touchdown pass to Shadrick Byrd with 33 seconds to play as Charlotte upended visiting Duke 31-28 in a wild closing stretch in Friday night’s season opener.
The 49ers covered 75 yards in seven plays on the winning drive. Byrd caught the swing pass in the backfield and ran to the end zone.
The result goes down as perhaps the highest-profile victory in Charlotte’s program history, knocking off an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
Blue Devils running back Mataeo Durant ran for two long touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead score on a 53-yard burst with 1:44 to play. Durant rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
Reynolds and Grant DuBose connected for their second touchdown play of the game with 2:29 to play, a 9-yard strike, to put Charlotte on top 24-21, but that edge didn’t last long.
Reynolds was 19-for-30 for 324 yards and three touchdowns in the air. He also ran for a TD. Victor Tucker caught eight passes for 133 yards.
Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg was 18-for-26 for 202 yards and one touchdown in his starting debut.
Neither team had won a game since Halloween night, when Duke clobbered visiting Charlotte 53-19 in the first-ever meeting between the programs. The Blue Devils lost their last four contests in 2020. The 49ers played just once more last year, falling to Western Kentucky.
Charlotte began the scoring with Reynolds’ 56-yard scoring pass to DuBose in the first quarter. It was 10-0 after Jonathan Cruz’s 32-yard field goal in the second quarter.
The Blue Devils went ahead before halftime, scoring twice in the last 8 1/2 minutes of the half.
Holmberg tossed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Waters to get Duke on the board. Durant put the Blue Devils on top with a 5-yard run.
Charlotte was back in front early in the third quarter on Reynolds’ 1-yard run.
Duke regained the lead on Durant’s 59-yard run with 13:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was a devastating outcome for Duke, which finished 2-9 last year. The Blue Devils have dropped three consecutive season openers, having lost to Alabama in 2019 and Notre Dame in 2020.
–Field Level Media