The Charlotte 49ers (1-0) football team looked like they’ve been playing together for years on Saturday afternoon at Jerry Richardson Stadium defeating the Campbell Camels (0-1) 52-7 in the first-ever game in 49ers program history. A standing room only crowd of 16,630 packed the brand new stadium and watched their Charlotte 49ers make history in an emphatic way.
The Camels won the opening coin toss and elected to receive in hopes of scoring early to quiet down the electric Charlotte crowd. This plan backfired when Campbell starting quarterback Brian Hudson threw an interception on just the second play from scrimmage. Mark Hogan, a graduate student linebacker for the 49ers, dropped into coverage and took the interception 32 yards the other way for the first-ever touchdown in Charlotte football history.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of the game for the 49ers was their offense. Led by quarterback Matt Johnson, Charlotte took their first possession 66 yards on ten plays culminating in a one yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Justin Bolus. A successful two-point conversion by C.J. Crawford pushed the 49ers lead to 15-0 just halfway through the opening quarter.
The Charlotte offense struck again late in the first quarter when Johnson tossed his second touchdown pass of the game, this time finding Austin Duke open across the middle for a 19-yard catch and run. A Blake Brewer extra point stretched the 49ers lead to 22-0 after one quarter of play.
After a Brewer field goal extended the Charlotte lead to 25-0, the 49ers were finally able to find a little success in the running game. A 15-yard touchdown run off of left tackle by running back Kalif Phillips put the 49ers on top 32-0 with nine minutes still remaining in the second quarter.
Phillips enjoyed a productive day carrying the ball, rushing nine times for 66 yards including the one touchdown run.
The Camels made a quarterback change late in the first half and it paid off as backup signal caller Dakota Wolf took matters into his own hands on a one-yard touchdown run to spoil the 49ers shutout.
Charlotte was able to tack on a 21-yard field goal as time expired on the first half, giving the 49ers a 35-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Charlotte came out firing in the second half as well. Johnson tossed his third and final touchdown pass of the day, a 47-yard bomb to wide receiver Trent Bostick, that gave the 49ers a commanding 45-7 lead in the third quarter.
Johnson was the brightest of many stars wearing a Charlotte uniform for the first time on Saturday. He finished the day 19-29 with 282 yards passing to go along with his three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 181.3. Johnson put up these astonishing numbers despite being pulled along with the rest of the starters midway through the third quarter.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to our O-line, and our receivers played amazing today,” said Johnson.
“Mark Hogan took a lot of pressure off my shoulders early on, I was pretty nervous before that interception.”
The 49ers capped their scoring for the day early in the fourth quarter on a reverse play ran to wide receiver Corey Nesmith Jr. Nesmith Jr. took it 33 yards down the right sideline into the endzone to put a bow on the game at 52-7.
Along with Hogan, the Charlotte defense was led by outstanding play from linebacker Micah Bryan and cornerback Terrance Winchester. Bryan, a redshirt junior, finished the game with a team-high eight total tackles and one pass break up. Winchester recorded four total tackles and snagged an interception off of Hudson midway through the third quarter.
Charlotte was dominant as a team on both sides of the ball throughout the game. The 49ers racked up a total of 488 yards of offense on Saturday, 277 of those came through the air while the remaining 211 came via the ground game.
The Charlotte defense held Campbell to just 287 total yards of offense on the day while also forcing four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles.
Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert was visibly pleased and proud of his guys effort after the game.
“It was a humbling experience out there today with the crowd and the stadium. So many people put so much into this, and it was great to see it all on game day. I’ve said it several times, you only get one chance to start and you’ve got to start it right, and I feel like we did that today,” said Lambert.
Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky made an appearance at the 49ers first-ever home game.
“We supported obviously their transition to FBS. The fact they’re moving right to FBS is an aggressive timeline, but it’s the right thing, no question,” said Banowsky.
“We acclimated them into the conference – Brad comes to our media days to promote the program as if it’s one of our competing programs right now.”
The Charlotte 49ers will play next on Saturday, Sep. 7 at noon when they welcome the Chowan Hawks to Jerry Richardson Stadium. That game will be the first of the season for Chowan.