The Charlotte 49ers second season didn’t start exactly like the first one, but the 49ers took control with a near-perfect third quarter to pull away from Campbell, 33-9 in the season-opener for both teams.
“I thought our guys responded well in the second half,” said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert. “The defense played well the entire game and we had some guys come off the bench who were big factors in the game. We knew (Campbell) would be ready. We knew what was coming and they didn’t disappoint. Just really proud of our guys and how they responded.”
Charlotte led 6-3 at the half, but outscored the host Camels 21-0 in the third, to take a 27-3 lead. Sophomore running back Kalif Phillips scored each of the three TD’s as Charlotte scored on each of its third quarter possessions. The 49ers had drives of 63; 54 and 61 yards in the third quarter, with Phillips capping them with TD runs of 1, 1 and 10 yards.
“The offensive line did a good job for me and set us up well and then I knew I had to go through and break some tackles just to keep the ball moving,” said Phillips, who finished with 70 yards rushing on 13 carries.
QB Matt Johnson was 6-of-8 in the third quarter for 130 yards – connecting with slot receiver Austin Duke four times for 51 yards and finding H-back Justin Bolus for a school-record 62-yard reception that set up Phillips third TD.
“Our defense really had our back,” said Duke. “We just needed to do what we’ve been doing in preseason camp.”
“We needed to execute better. We had two turnovers there in the first half. We made some big plays in the second half to get us going,” said Lambert, mentioning the 62-yard pass and catch to Bolus, a diving catch by Duke on a 38-yard pass to the one and Phillips’ rushing plays.
After surrendering a TD on the first play of the fourth quarter, the 49ers answered to make it 33-9 in the fourth. Freshman Maetron Thomas broke off a 40-yard touchdown run on his first collegiate carry for the 49ers fourth TD of the night.
In the inaugural season, Charlotte scored early and often in game one, building a 22-0 lead in the first quarter and a 35-7 halftime lead over visiting Campbell.
In Year Two, however, Charlotte used a pair of field goals to build a 6-0 lead and led 6-3 at the end of a half dominated by defense. Campbell had the better of the first half statline, passing for 125 yards on their way to 170 yards of total offense while the 49ers put up 126 yards of total offense by halftime. Campbell forced two first half turnovers, but missed a pair of field goal attempts (42, 41). Charlotte’s Blake Brewer hit both of his attempts, including a school-record and Barker-Lane Stadium record 50-yarder to open the scoring.
“We just have a lot of confidence in Blake,” Lambert said of the record kick.
“I thought the defense came out and played well,” said senior linebacker Caleb Clayton-Molby. “I think our defense held up really well and the offense turned it around in the second half.”
Charlotte ended the game with 453 yards of total offense, including 264 from the rushing game. The 49ers answered in the second half with a pair of turnovers as well – on interceptions from Tyler DeStefani and Greg Cunningham Jr. Ardy Holmes led the 49ers with 11 tackles while Nico Alcalde had 3.0 tackles for loss.
Three of the 49ers four TD drives took less than 1:30 of elapsed time as the 49ers showed the same quick strike capability that defined the offense in year one.