|Niners Fall to Unbeaten Braves, 45-22|
UNC Pembroke put up 503 yards of total offense and built a 21-8 halftime lead on its way to a 45-22 victory over the host Charlotte 49ers to spoil Charlotte’s first football Homecoming Game.
“They were what I thought coming in,” said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert of the Braves, ranked #13 in the AFCA Div. II Coaches poll. “They are an old football team that handled themselves really well. They were really prepared, played extremely hard and outplayed us today.”
The Braves (5-0) scored on consecutive possessions to open the second half and forced three second-half turnovers to deny any comeback efforts for Charlotte (4-3), which had scored 29 straight points in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind win over #24 Gardner-Webb last week.
UNC Pembroke’s Rontonio Stanley scored on a pair of two-yard runs in the first quarter and quarterback Luke Charles threw three touchdown passes as the Braves remained undefeated.
Charlotte QB Matt Johnson hit Mikel Hunter with a 2-yard TD pass in the first quarter and Lee McNeill ran in on the two-point conversion to give the 49ers an 8-7 lead, but the Braves scored the next 31 points.
“The 49ers – that is a great young roster,” said UNCP coach Pete Shinnick. “I think you saw UNC Pembroke, a bunch of fifth-year seniors who believe in each other. Our defense played lights out. Our guys came to play and were excited for this opportunity.”
After Stanley’s second TD run, Charles hit Te’vell Williams on a 23-yard pass to give the Braves a 21-8 halftime lead.
Elliott Powell pushed across a five-yard carry on the opening drive of the second half and after a 49ers punt Charles connected with Williams on third and nine for a 56-yard bomb to give the Braves a 35-8 lead. A 46-yard field goal from Connor Haskins finished the scoring streak and put the Braves ahead, 38-8.
“They’re a very good team,” said 49ers safety Desmond Cooper. “They were hitting us with the quick passes, which is something we prepared for all week. They came out prepared and they came out fighting.”
Johnson connected with CJ Crawford just before the end of the third quarter to close the gap to 38-15 and but after a three-and-out, the 49ers fumbled the ensuing punt, leading the Braves to their final score: an 8-yard pass from Charles to B.J. Bunn.
“This is a process,” Lambert added, “and it didn’t go the way we wanted today. We made the mistakes and we turned over the ball a lot. We’ve got a young football team and we’ve got to stick together and learn from mistakes.”
Johnson and Crawford connected again in the final five minutes to make it 45-22.
UNC Pembroke won the turnover battle, 4-1, forcing three fumbles and pulling in one interception.
Johnson, who ranks 16th in the FCS in touchdown passes, was 25-of-40 for 278 yards and the three TDs. His counterpart, Charles was 43-of-57 for 403 yards and three TDs. Both QB’s had one interception. The 403 yards passing are the most by an opposing quarterback.
“You can tell he’s a confident guy,” Lambert said of Charles. “Just watching him you could tell that he was in command.”
Charlotte’s Austin Duke had nine catches for a season-high 128 yards. UNCP’s Tamari White led all rushers with 73 yards on 16 carries. Alan Barnwell had 49 yards rushing for the 49ers.