Hardison, defense help UTEP beat Charlotte 41-35

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Gavin Hardison threw three touchdown passes, including two to Tyrin Smith, Tyrice Knight and Jadrian Taylor each returned a fumble for a score and UTEP beat Charlotte 41-35 Saturday night.

UTEP (3-3, 1-1 Conference USA) won in the Eastern time zone for the first time in program history (1-26-1).

Chris Reynolds threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Grant DuBose that capped the game’s opening drive and gave Charlotte (1-5, 0-2) a 7-0 lead with 9:48 left in the first quarter. UTEP answered with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that culminated when Smith caught his first TD, a 17-yarder, and Gavin Baechle kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Miners the lead for good midway through the second quarter. Hardison hit Trent Thompson for a 26-yard score with 33 seconds left in the half and Knight’s 13-yard fumble return for a touchdown 13 seconds later gave UTEP 24-7 lead at the break.

Reynolds threw third-quarter TD passes of 23 yards to Elijah Spencer and 2 yards to DuBose to pull the 49ers to 24-21 but Smith scored on a 58-yard catch-and-run and Baechle kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it a three-point game going into the fourth quarter.

Charlotte, on its next drive, had a first-and-goal from the 2 but, after an incomplete pass, ChaVon McEachern fumbled near the goal line and Taylor scooped and scored on a 100-yard return to make it 41-21 with 13:36 to play.

Reynolds completed 21 of 37 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns with an interception for Charlotte.

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