Heading into Friday's Week 1 matchup against Duke, Charlotte had never beaten a Power Five opponent. In fact, the 49ers had never beaten a single FBS program in the state of North Carolina, going 0-4 against such opponents. But thanks to an improbable touchdown drive with just seconds remaining, Charlotte earned its first win over a power conference opponent, beating the Blue Devils in the final minute of a 31-28 thriller. Now, everything has changed for the 49ers program.
With just 40 seconds remaining, quarterback Chris Reynolds hit an 11-yard dump-off pass in the flat to running back Shadrick Byrd for the go-ahead score, completing a comeback and avenging an embarrassing 53-19 loss to Duke a season ago.
The touchdown capped off a wild finish in which both sides traded late scores. Charlotte initially took a lead with 2:59 remaining after Reynolds threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Grant DuBose, capping off a 92-yard drive. However, Duke responded when running back Mataeo Durant punched back with a blistering 53-yard scamper. But Charlotte had the last say with its seven-play, 75-yard finisher.
The win comes following a tumultuous year for the 49ers program. After reaching bowl eligibility for the first time in program history in 2019, the 2020 football season ended up being a year of frustrations. The 49ers only played one game in September because of cancellations and postponements, and did not play a single game in the month of November. The path made victory that much sweeter for coach Will Healy, a rising star in the profession.
"When you have nine games canceled, and these guys don't have a great student-athlete experience, it breaks your heart," Healy told the CBS Sports Network broadcast. "You feel like you failed them. The guys who decided to come back and keep fighting for this program, it means a lot to me. All I want is for these players to have an incredible experience and for Charlotte football to be big-time. The way these dudes fight, man, means a lot to me. I'm lucky to be the head football coach here."
Reynolds' touchdown pass was part of a 324-yard, three-touchdown effort. Receivers Grant DuBose and Victory Tucker combined for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Duke's Durant rushed for a school record 255 yards and three touchdowns, but ultimately, Charlotte's heroics were just too much.