49ers vs. Bulldogs in 100 words
In a season of firsts for Charlotte, Gardner-Webb will be the first ranked team to face the 49ers at Richardson Stadium. ... The Bulldogs are ranked 25th by the Sports Network, 24th by the Football Championship Subdivision’s coaches. ... Two of Gardner-Webb’s best players are from Charlotte – quarterback Lucas Beatty (Olympic High) and cornerback Keon Williams (Providence). ... Two of Gardner-Webb’s victories have come against teams that were ranked in the top 15 when the games were played – Wofford and Richmond. ... The Bulldogs play another ranked team next week, at No. 9 Coastal Carolina.
By the numbers
11 touchdown passes by 49ers quarterback Matt Johnson, tied for 10th in the FCS.
10 Consecutive seasons Gardner-Webb has had at least one preseason All-American.
19 Charlotte takeaways, first in the FCS. They have 14 giveaways.
• The Bulldogs play similarly to the 49ers: They run a spread offense and a 3-4 defense.
• Gardner-Webb quarterback Lucas Beatty has thrown for 916 yards this season and is eighth in school history in passing yards (4,030). He’s thrown as many touchdowns (four) as interceptions this season.
• Tanner Burch is one of the better linebackers in the FCS. Burch was second nationally in tackles per game last season and is second in the Big South this year (49). He’s also got two tackles for losses and a quarterback hurry.
• Speedy cornerback Keon Williams has three interceptions already this season. He returned one 37 yards for a touchdown last week against Point (Ga.).
Matchup to watch
Charlotte C Matt La Bianca vs. Gardner-Webb NT O.J. Le’iatua Mau
Le’Iatua Mau (pronounced lee-EE-ah-TWO-ah) is a 6-foot-2, 302-pound sophomore from American Samoa whose job it is to stuff the opposition’s running game in the middle of the Gardner-Webb 3-4 defense. He’s been effective, as Gardner-Webb’s defense allows 107.8 yards per game on the ground (and a total of just 23 yards in the fourth quarter). La Bianca, a 6-3, 295-pound redshirt freshman, helped clear things out last week as Charlotte rushed for 244 yards in a victory against Presbyterian.
• Gardner-Webb has won twice with its kicking game. Jordan Day (Marvin Ridge) scored all the Bulldogs’ points in a 12-10 victory against Richmond and a 3-0 triumph against Wofford. Day was four-for-four against the Spiders and made a 35-yarder against the Terriers in the driving rain for the game’s only points.
• Two 49ers that didn’t play last week due to concussions, offensive lineman Daniel Blitch and linebacker Micah Bryan, will return Saturday but aren’t expected to start.
• The 49ers average 14.4 true freshmen or redshirt freshmen in their starting lineup, with the opposition starting an average of 2.4. Gardner-Webb will enjoy a similar advantage in experience with just one redshirt freshman (linebacker Arlando Griffin) among the starters.
• The game ball will arrive after being carried in a 60-mile relay from Gardner-Webb’s Boiling Springs campus 60 miles west of Charlotte by members of both schools’ ROTC. The 49ers will also recognize Military Appreciation Day with a special helmet design . Former 49ers women’s soccer star Hailey Beam, who was to have had her jersey retired Friday, will be honored at halftime.
3 and out: With P Brandon Strupp
Q. You were only a kicker at East Lincoln High and for two seasons at Concord (W.Va.) before you transferred to Charlotte. What are some of the major differences between punting and kicking?
A. The mindset is not too different because special teams plays are always big. With punting, you’re not scoring points like with field goals. But it’s important to help the defense out by making the other team start from farther back. That’s as crucial as scoring three points.
Q. You’re averaging 37.5 yards per punt, have four of 50-plus yards, but also have hit eight inside the 20. Is that just as gratifying as booming long ones?
A. A lot of times punters look at their stats, but I don’t focus on that. It’s just as important to get one inside the 20 when you can’t hit the big ball. Coach (Brad) Lambert always says when it’s inside the 20, it’s a win.
Q. So there are more subtleties in punting?
A. On field goals, you have one mentality: you kick a long one as hard as you do an extra point. On punts, you sometimes have to be more smooth, especially on short ones, when you’re relying more on placement and touch on your foot, rather than crushing it.
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