The Charlotte 49ers (4-8) traveled to take on the UTSA Roadrunners on Sat. Nov. 26, only to end their 2016-2017 season with a tough loss on the road, 33-14.
Although the 49ers came up short of their bowl game hopes, the season can be considered a step in the right direction, conquering a better overall record, 4-8, then last years’ two-win team.
The emotions were evident on the field for the 49ers before and after the game, that included 27 seniors who made up the first class recruiting class who helped start the football program.
“I want to just thank them for taking a risk and coming to Charlotte to start this program,” head coach Brad Lambert said. “They laid a great foundation for us and it has a chance to propel us forward as we move into the coming years.”
UTSA’s quarterback Dalton Strum and Kerry Thomas worked together to score a 73-yard touchdown to start the game, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Senior Austin Duke and quarterback Hasaan Kluge linked up for a 76-yard touchdown after the Roadrunners’ score, tying the game at 7-7, and proving to be Klugh’s longest touchdown pass of his college football career.
UTSA continued to pressure the Charlotte defense in the redzone, but had to settle for a Victor Falcon 21-yard field goal, putting the Roadrunners up 10-7 with 7:54 into the first quarter.
The Roadrunners kept the ball in the first quarter for over 20 minutes, making it hard for Charlotte to rack up touchdowns in the first half. The second half was a struggle for the Niners as they had six penalties, putting themselves in a big hole. UTSA fed off the Charlotte mistakes and went for another touchdown and were successful at the 4:41 mark in the second quarter, taking a 20-7 lead over the Niners.
Defensive lineman Ogunjobi ended his career as a 49er on Saturday, being the only 49er to start in all 48 games in program history.
“We have a great group of guys and great coaches,” Ogunjobi said. “It’s kind of surreal that it’s all over. Emotions were really high and just like any other game, we wanted to win this game so it’s tough to lose. The foundation is laid though. We have a great team coming up behind us seniors and a great quarterback at the helm. The pieces of the puzzle are there, we just need to put them all together.”
The fourth quarter shined a little light on the Niners, as the UTSA punter Yannis Routsas fumbled the ball, taking a hit from Charlotte’s Garrison Duncan. The loose ball found Juwan Foogie’s hands, who ran it to the house for a Charlotte touchdown.
UTSA kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more touchdowns, giving them a 14-33 win over the 49ers.
“We just kept hanging around and then all of a sudden we got the score off of the muffed punt and you look up at the scoreboard and think, ‘This is something we can work with
here,'” Lambert said. “I was just really proud of the guys for continuing to battle out there despite the injuries and adversity that we faced.”
After a disappointing finish to the season, the 49ers still took many steps forward and will be able to look back on this year as a success moving down the road.
“Looking at 2016, it was a good step for us,” Lambert said. “We played good games against good teams and we won three in the conference so we just have to continue on this trajectory, keep recruiting hard and I think good things lie ahead for us.”