The 49ers were able to put up plenty of offense but struggled to contain Coastal Carolina’s high-powered attack in falling to the #3/#6 ranked Chanticleers, 50-25, Saturday at Brooks Stadium in Conway.
Charlotte (4-5) put up over 500 yards of offense. Kalif Phillips became the 49ers first-ever 100-yard rusher. Matt Johnson threw for 220 yards. But Coastal went one better, putting up over 600 yards of offense, seeing two backs rush for over 100 yards and a quarterback throwing for 237 yards. And Coastal won the turnover battle, 2-0, with both takeaways coming inside their own 10-yard line to turn away 49ers’ scoring opportunities.
“Our guys were fighting with them toe-to-toe,” 49ers head coach Brad Lambert said. “We’ve just got to continue getting better. We didn’t get any turnovers today, which we’re accustomed to getting. That’s a little bit of a tribute to them. They haven’t turned it over much this year, and they didn’t today.”
Coastal tied a Big South record with its 7th straight game scoring at least 40 points and Lorenzo Taliaferro tied a Big South record with his 21st rushing touchdown of the season.
This was the 49ers fourth game of their inaugural season against an FCS ranked opponent. Charlotte is 1-3 in those games. The two teams combined for 1122 yards of total offense, including 665 on the ground.
“They came out and executed,” said 49ers safety Desmond Cooper. “They were a great team. They did everything we expected. We’re going to keep on practicing tackles like we do every week. It’s a little bit harder when you have a whole bunch of young guys. Only thing we can do right now is get better.
After missing a field goal on their opening possession, Coastal Carolina scored on six straight possessions, forcing the 49ers to keep up.
A Blake Brewer field goal and Johnson’s 9-yard touchdown run cut Coastal’s lead to 14-11 in the second quarter, but Alex Ross connected with DeMario Bennett for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the ensuing drive to push the lead back to double digits 21-11.
That led to the 49ers first turnover – as Charlotte drove into the red zone in six plays, covering 49 yards. Johnnie Houston intercepted Johnson on the 1-yard line and Coastal drove back for a field goal.
Charlotte’s Alan Barnwell had an 8-yard touchdown run to the right pylon to bring Charlotte within 24-18 with 4:06 left in the first half but Taliaferro added a 3-yard TD run with 1:30 left to make 30-18 at the break.
Coastal (9-0) then scored 20 straight points to open the second half with an opening drive touchdown run from De’Angelo Henderson and fourth quarter scores from Taliaferro and Brian Kass to push the lead to 50-18.
On the 49ers first possession of the second half, trailing 36-18, Johnson engineered another long drive of 12 plays and 61 yards that carried the 49ers to the Coastal 19. But Johnson was intercepted at the six-yard line by LaDarius Hawthorne.
“We can’t give them the football,” Johnson said. “I really commend them. They gave us some challenges in a lot of ways, but we just can’t give them the football."
“We just can't turn it over in the red zone,” Lambert noted, “and I didn’t like the way our kicking team played pretty much the whole day. We need to get back and work on that."
Philllips, who finished with a season-best 132 yards, capped his impressive day with eighth touchdown of the season on a 2-yard dive to make it 50-25. The 49ers finished with a season-high 281 rushing yards.
"He's like a workhorse, and it's awesome,” Johnson said of the true freshman running back. “Both him and AB (Barnwell). It's really fun to watch them play. It gets me going if I'm down in a funk. I really like that we have three heads in the back field."
Johnson completed 17-of-31 passes for 220 yards with Mikel Hunter topping the receiving corps with 89 yards. Barnwell rushed for 56 yards and Johnson added 51 yards on the ground. Taliaferro led all rushers with 139 yards while Henderson added 117.
Charlotte returns home, Saturday, to face Wesley College in the 49ers final home game of their inaugural season.
#49: Nico Alcalde
Flags: Larry Ogunjobi; Austin Duke; Demarrell Alexander
Captains: Desmond Cooper; Caleb Clayton-Molby; CJ Crawford; Jamal Covington
49ers 1-3 on road
49ers 2-2 vs. Big South
49ers 1-3 vs. FCS ranked opponents