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Charlotte 49ers remain undefeated, untied – and untested

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

Last week Charlotte beat Campbell 52-7. Saturday the 49ers beat Chowan 47-7.

They’ve played eight quarters and they’ve scored in each. The victories have been video-game easy, Madden if you know what you’re doing.

The 49ers do. Their performances are such that, based on the reaction in the press box at Jerry Richardson Stadium, they might get a few votes in the AP poll.

Somebody Tweeted during Saturday’s game that Charlotte should join the SEC. That’s absurd. Why not proceed straight to the NFC South?

Here’s what we know two games into Charlotte’s so-far legendary football history: Their opponents have been woefully undermanned. It’s like a tall athletic big brother playing basketball in the driveway with his smaller, younger, less athletic brother.

Charlotte’s running backs ran over the Chowan defenders. The 49ers rushed 38 times for 227 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per carry and ripped off runs of 41 and 31 yards.

And they never had to run. Their receivers found openings and man, did quarterback Matt Johnson put the ball where the receivers wanted it. Johnson, the redshirt freshman, was 23 of 30 for 256 yards and five touchdowns. Some quarterbacks couldn’t compile those numbers if they were on the field with their receivers and nobody else.

Somebody asks Johnson if he challenged Peyton Manning, who threw seven touchdowns for Denver Thursday.

“Ah, nah,” Johnson says. “No Peyton Manning.”

Later, Johnson would say he had no idea he threw five touchdown passes. And he meant it.

Here’s what else we knew: The 49ers are fast. They have receivers and defenders and return men who can fly.

Although Saturday was the closest game in Charlotte major football history, the 49ers again dazzled. Fans again showed up early. Walk through the crowd and it’s a reunion as much as a football game. People who hadn’t seen each other in the five years or decade since they walked off campus have a reason to come together and hang out again.

Attendance, however, declined from the program opener. A standing-room-only crowd of 16,630 showed up for Campbell. Only 16,598 fans showed up Saturday.

Next week the 49ers get N.C. Central. The Eagles will be faster than Campbell or Chowan, says Charlotte linebacker Micah Bryan. Bryan, a junior, was singularly disruptive against Chowan with six tackles, an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery. He took off with the fumble and he would have scored. He says so. But the ball was knocked loose.

Bryan, like Johnson, says he wants a close game.

“I’m ready for our defense to be pushed and our offense to see the tempo go up,” he says.

Video games are fun. But a challenge, especially if the 49ers are successful, will be considerably more satisfying.

If the Eagles don’t challenge the 49ers, James Madison will Sept. 21. The Dukes, ranked 15th in the Football Championship Subdivision, have advanced to the playoffs five times in nine seasons.

James Madison is in Harrisonburg, Va., about five hours northeast, and on that night, in that place, the 49ers will be outmanned. It’s tough to think of James Madison as evil, but talented opponents tend to be.

Yet to presuppose something bad will happen is to throw a party and think about the people who don’t show.

The people who show up, on the field and in the bleachers, who listen on the radio and watch on TV, are the ones who count.

Charlotte’s victories have been festive.

The 49ers are entertaining, innovative and, who knows, Among Other Teams Receiving Votes.

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