CHARLOTTE — Charlotte posted a landmark victory, beating a Power Five team for the first time in program history as the 49ers topped Duke 31-28 in a wild game on Friday night.
The Blue Devils were the first major conference team to travel to Charlotte’s home stadium, the third straight year Duke has opened the season away from home. The Blue Devils have lost all three.
“It’s a great moment for our university,” Charlotte coach Will Healy said.
This loss was particularly tough for the Blue Devils to take. Duke led for more than 19 minutes and dominated on the ground, with running back Mataeo Durant breaking free for 59- and 53-yard touchdowns and setting a school single-game record with 255 yards on the ground.
“Mataeo is a special player,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “I think everybody knew that all along. I like his fierceness as a runner. … I spoke to him (after the game). His will is not broken.”
“The record is cool and everything, but I’m a team-first guy,” Durant said. “I wanted to get a win.”
But it was Charlotte who got the win in a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw the lead change hands three times in the final three minutes.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds led the way with a huge fourth quarter. He threw for 161 yards in the final 15 minutes, nearly doubling his total for the game to finish with 324. He completed 10 of 12 passes in the quarter and threw two of his three touchdowns for the game.
Victor Tucker was Reynolds’ top target, catching five balls for 101 yards in the fourth quarter and finishing with eight catches for 133. Four of his fourth-quarter catches went for first downs, keeping drives going and the Blue Devils defense on the field. Charlotte was 10 of 18 on third downs and had an 11-minute advantage in time of possession.
“Third-and-10, second-and-15, you’ve got to get stops,” Cutcliffe said. “If we can’t get off the field, and if they can take it 93 yards and 75 yards, it’s difficult to play good defense. … We get them in bad down and distance, and they gain 11.”
Grant Dubose also topped 100 yards for Charlotte, finishing with four catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Gunnar Holmberg had a solid game in his first start for Duke. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown, although he had a costly fumble on a goal-line run that turned the ball over to Charlotte.
“We turn it over. They don’t,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s the age-old story.”
Charlotte hosts Gardner-Webb next week, while Duke tries to even its record in the Blue Devils’ home opener against NC A&T.
“That was a good football team,” Cutcliffe said of Charlotte. “I certainly wouldn’t call us one, yet. But we can be.”