Plays That Mattered: Charlotte

  • University of Massachusetts sophomore defensive lineman Jake Byczko, left, and junior linebacker Leon Flanagan Jr., right, force a fumble by Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds on a sack in the first quarter of the Minutemen's 49-31 win over the 49ers on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2018 11:55:49 AM

UMass returned home this past weekend and looked excited to be back playing at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The Minutemen jumped on Charlotte early in its 49-31 victory and then the game sort of mellowed out as both teams settled in. This is another game where most of the important plays happened early in the contest, but there was one important moment at the end of the first half that was arguably just as important as the first-quarter surge.

1. 93-yard kickoff return touchdown for Marquis Young

Situation: Opening kickoff of the game. 15:00 left in first quarter.

Formation: Both teams lined up in fairly standard kickoff and kick return formations.

The Play: Marquis Young fields the kickoff cleanly at UMass’ 7-yard line and he follows the mass of grey jerseys out to the 20. Charlotte seemed to over-pursue the kickoff and leave its lanes early, giving the Minutemen blockers easy markers to divert the 49ers away from Young. The back-breaking seam opens at the 25-yard line and at this point the only person standing between Young and the end zone is kicker Jonathan Cruz. Cruz is nowhere near as fast as Young, who easily stretches the return away from Cruz in the middle of the field and then beats the kicker to the 45-yard line before cruising into the end zone.

2. Jake Byczko strip sack for loss of 5 yards

Situation: 2nd-and-16 on Charlotte 19. 12:01 left in first quarter.

Formation: UMass lined up with four down linemen while Charlotte sent five players out on receiving routes.

The Play: Almost immediately after the snap, 49ers quarterback Chris Reynolds is in trouble. Jake Byczko beats his man so cleanly and runs around the right tackle for a straight shot on Reynolds. At nearly the same time Byczko reaches Reynolds, Leon Flanagan rips free from the left tackle and also converges on Reynolds. However, by the time Flanagan finishes the tackle on Reynolds, Byczko has already ripped the ball away from Reynolds, turning the Minutemen’s first sack of the season into the final big play that ended up UMass scoring its third touchdown in the first 3:14 of the game.

3. 29-yard touchdown pass from Michael Curtis to Jessie Britt

Situation: 2nd-and-12 from the Charlotte 29. 1:12 left in second quarter.

Formation: Jessie Britt was lined up in the slot to the right of Curtis, who was alone in the backfield.

The Play: This was nothing more than a well-executed timing route that Charlotte made into an even bigger gain. Curtis barely moves in the pocket and he’s ready to release the throw to Britt as soon as he finishes his dropback. The 49ers were playing man coverage and Britt easily ran by his man into the empty space in the Charlotte secondary. Quinton Jordan, the Charlotte safety who was closest to Britt, realized the pass was headed that way, but could not get over there in time and his attempt to detach Britt from the ball with a hit only propelled Britt the final half inch into the end zone. Charlotte had just scored its first points of the game on the drive prior and a UMass drive that didn’t end in points would have made for an interesting second half with the 49ers down three touchdowns at the most and receiving the second-half kickoff. Instead, Curtis led UMass on it first extended scoring drive and put the game out of reach.

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