CHARLOTTE — Charlotte outscored Western Kentucky 31-7 in the second half and cruised to a 40-14 win inside Jerry Richardson Stadium on Saturday.
Western (1-5, 0-2 Conference USA) trailed just 9-7 at the break before crumbling in the final two quarters. The 26-point defeat was WKU's worst in league play since losing 59-10 at Louisiana Tech on Nov. 1, 2014.
The Hilltoppers, 2-10 in their last 12, return home next Saturday to host Old Dominion (1-6, 0-4 CUSA).
The 49ers (3-3, 2-1 CUSA) put up 448 yards of offense and averaged nearly six yards per play. They also went 9 of 14 on third down and racked up 28 first downs in the victory.
The Hilltoppers fell behind immediately after Davis Shanley threw an interception and Charlotte running back Benny LeMay took the next play from scrimmage 35 yards to the house giving UNCC a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
Western came back later in the opening quarter with a nine-play, 85-yard drive that mixed in freshman quarterback Kevaris Thomas. Thomas scored on a 4-yard run to give the Tops a 7-6 lead at the 3:20 mark.
Jonathan Cruz kicked a 33-yard field goal with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half making it 9-7 Charlotte.
Western's Alex Rinella had a 50-yard field goal blocked just before the half. That allowed the 49ers to go the other direction and set up for a 33-yard kick by Cruz, but it sailed wide.
Charlotte began the second half with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up nearly six minutes and was polished off by an Evan Shirreffs 1-yard scoring dive making it 16-7.
Later in the quarter LeMay completed a 62-yard drive by barreling over defenders on a 9-yard touchdown run putting the Niners up 23-7. After Shanley threw an interception on the next play from scrimmage, Aaron McCallister easily ran in from 14 yards out to put UNCC up 30-7.
A 51-yard field goal from Cruz to start the fourth made it 33-7. Shirreffs completed a 28-yard scoring strike to Rico Arnold with 5:08 to go making it 40-7.
Steven Duncan threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Steven Witchoskey to provide the final margin.