The Charlotte 49ers strapped up for their home opener on Saturday afternoon and put on a show for the crowd at Jerry Richardson Stadium. The stadium packed with 15,875 fans was treated to an early onslaught of offense followed by four quarters of dominant, shut down defense from Charlotte.
The 49ers cruised to a 56-0 victory over the Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls behind three touchdowns from running back Kalif Phillips.
“We challenged our football team to come out and execute early in the game and I thought they did that,” said Charlotte Head Coach Brad Lambert postgame.
“Our players really prepared well this week and had good practices. When you prepare well, you give yourself the chance to play well.”
The 49ers (2-0) sprinted out of the gates on offense as they drove the ball 65 yards on their first drive.
Phillips busted up the middle for a six-yard touchdown run to cap the drive and put Charlotte on top 6-0 less than two minutes in to the game.
Charlotte quarterback Matt Johnson found a rhythm early and connected with true freshman receiver T.L. Ford on a 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle to extend the 49ers lead to 13-0.
“We worked really hard this week and I wasn’t really satisfied with the way I played last week,” said Johnson.
“A lot of guys on the other end of those balls were out there making plays and I just put it out there for them the best that I could.”
Blake Brewer nailed a 26-yard field goal to push the lead to 16-0 and Phillips added his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon to give Charlotte a 23-0 advantage after the first quarter.
The 49ers scored on their first four possessions of the game and on 10 of their first 11 drives, while racking up 289 yards of offense in the first 15 minutes.
Charlotte’s defense stifled Johnson C. Smith (0-1) early and often and didn’t allow a first down until the waning moments of the opening quarter.
Phillips added his third and final rushing touchdown of the day with 12:32 remaining in the first half, extending the Charlotte lead to 30-0.
Phillips now has six rushing touchdowns in just two games to start the 2014 season after scoring three times last week against Campbell.
The 49ers starting running back has now found the end zone three times in three consecutive games dating back to last season.
The 49ers continued to dominate on defense throughout the remainder of the half and the offense tacked on two more field goals to make the score 36-0 heading into the locker room.
Charlotte out-gained the Golden Bulls by 377 yards in the opening half, racking up 454 total yards compared to just 77 for Johnson C. Smith.
Johnson completed 13 of 16 passes in the half for 285 yards and the one touchdown pass to Ford.
“It’s all about execution every time,” said Johnson.
“This is a great win and we did a lot of great things but there’s still plenty for us to learn from and improve on.”
Phillips carried the ball 10 times while picking up 41 yards and finding the end zone three times.
Charlotte’s defense forced and recovered two fumbles in the half, one by Caleb Clayton-Molby and the other by safety Branden Dozier.
The 49ers kept their foot on the gas as they opened the second half with a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown, putting Charlotte on top 43-0 early in the third quarter.
Backup safety Prince Mayela intercepted the Keahn Wallace pass and tiptoed down the sidelines on his way to the end zone.
Charlotte pulled their starters for good in the third quarter and the offense began to slow down.
The 49ers put together a couple of nice drives with backup quarterback Lee McNeill at the helm of the offense, but were forced to settle for two field goals that gave Charlotte a 49-0 lead after three quarters.
Charlotte hit one more home run play early in the fourth quarter when freshman running back Maetron Thomas broke a 60-yard touchdown run down the sideline to extend the 49ers lead to 56-0.
The Golden Bulls had an opportunity to put points on the board midway through the fourth quarter but Charlotte linebacker DaQuavius Reid blocked the Johnson C. Smith field goal attempt to keep the shutout alive.
“We definitely wanted to get the shutout because that’s something that we haven’t been able to do yet,” said 49ers linebacker Nico Alcalde.
“Our big emphasis in the offseason was our tackling. We’ve improved a lot and all 11 guys hawk to the ball on every play.”
Thomas looked impressive in the backfield for the second consecutive game.
The true freshman carried the ball nine times for 67 yards, including the long touchdown run.
Thomas now has touchdowns of 40 and 60 yards in his first two games at the collegiate level.
The 49ers racked up 546 yards of total offense and converted all nine of their red zone trips into points.
Charlotte’s defense held the Golden Bulls to just 197 yards of total offense, setting a new program-record.
The 49ers were effective against the run and the pass with all 11 guys flying to the ball on each and every play.
“One of the things I love about defense is that you don’t get to punt, you’ve got to get yourself off the field,” said Lambert.
“We just challenged our guys one drive at a time. Our defense is a year older, and I feel like that has helped us throughout the game.”
Charlotte only turned the ball over once on a pass from McNeill that bounced off of his receiver’s fingertips into the hands of a defender.
Charlotte’s 56-point victory is the largest in program history.
With Saturday’s win, the 49ers improve to 2-0 for the second consecutive season. Charlotte will hit the road for a game against the North Carolina Central Eagles next Saturday at 5 p.m.
Photos by Ben Coon and Chris Crews.