HARRISONBURG, Va. The Charlotte 49ers lost the game Saturday but picked up plenty of respect.
Following an untidy loss last week against N.C. Central, Charlotte fell Saturday to 16th-ranked James Madison 34-7 in Bridgeforth Stadium.
This one felt different than the 40-13, seven-turnover debacle against the Eagles at Charlottes Richardson Stadium, which was just the start-up 49ers third game in school history.
Charlotte lost that game because they had seven turnovers, said Dukes coach Mickey Matthews. I thought theyd be much better against us if they didnt turn the ball over, and they were.
The 49ers (2-2) did turn it over four times against the Dukes (3-1). But only one of those mistakes led to James Madison points.
I thought they were about what they should be, said James Madison quarterback Michael Birdsong of the 49ers. They havent had many games and theyre inexperienced. But they did pretty freaking good for a bunch of redshirt freshmen. When they go into Conference USA in two years, theyre going to be a scary program.
• Another way the 49ers stayed in the game in the first half: They stopped the Dukes three times on fourth-and-short situations.
• The 49ers ran two plays out of the Wildcat offense. One in particular didnt work early in the second quarter, when Martay Mattox (normally a defensive back) took the direct snap and fumbled. The 49ers trailed by just seven points at the time.
• Dukes linebacker Jordan Stanton was penalized in the second quarter for a late hit on 49ers quarterback Matt Johnson. Stanton was thrown out of the game for targeting a defenseless player, which is a new rule in college football. James Madison coach Mickey Matthews is an opponent of the rule on the FCS level, because there is not a replay available for officials.
• Offensive lineman Danny Book was given the honorary jersey No. 49, but he couldnt wear it because hes an offensive lineman and his number needs to be in the 50s, 60s or 70s. He stuck with his usual No. 68 in the game.
• The 49ers had just one sack of Birdsong, and it wasnt much of one. Freshman cornerback Devin Pearson got to Birdsong, but couldnt put him on the ground. The whistle blew the play dead.
• The 49ers entered the game ranked first in the nation in fumbles recovered and turnovers forced. With three more fumbles recovered (now 10) and five turnovers forced (17) against the Dukes, those rankings arent likely to change.
By the numbers
104: Rushing yards by James Madisons DaeQuan Scott in first quarter (he finished with 176).
2,886: Career yards by Scott, now third on Dukes career list.
21: Carries by Charlotte quarterback Johnson, most on team.
55: Yard punt by Brandon Strupp, tied for his longest of season.
• As bad as the weather was at the 6 p.m. kickoff, things were pretty normal in the second half after the rain stopped.
• Coach Brad Lambert said having Johnson run the ball as much as he did was just part of the 49ers offense. But after his five interceptions a week ago against N.C. Central, having Johnson run more was an effective way to settle him into the game. It also took the Dukes by surprise.
• Although the lousy weather certainly had something to do with it, the attendance of 18,302 was well short of capacity in 24,877-seat Bridgeforth Stadium. And that might have been an optimistic number.
• After gaining 95 yards in their first two possessions, the 49ers gained just 135 yards the rest of the game.
The 49ers play at Presbyterian (1-2) next Saturday in Clinton, S.C. The Blue Hose, who were off Saturday, defeated Division II Brevard 42-21 and lost to Wake Forest (31-7) and Furman (21-20).
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