When one team rallies to win, it means another team blew a lead.
That was the case for 25th-ranked Gardner-Webb, which squandered a 21-point cushion in the fourth quarter Saturday and lost 53-51 to the Charlotte 49ers at Richardson Stadium.
Their team made plays toward the end of the game and we didnt, said Bulldogs first-year coach Carroll McCray. Its back to the drawing board to get our team back.
The Bulldogs (4-2) led 45-24 after three quarters before the 49ers (4-2) scored 29 consecutive points 22 in a three-minute stretch. And McCray hopes his Bulldogs, who play at eighth-ranked Coastal Carolina in a Big South game next Saturday, learned from it.
We learned we dont like what we just went through, said McCray. I hope we learned because losing is not good and its not fun. We want to work hard to learn how to improve our team and learn how to win. When you get up and go into the fourth quarter, its important that you focus really hard and keep the momentum you have.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over three times, falling victim to a 49ers team that now has 22 takeaways for the season (leading the nation in that category coming into the game).
The 49ers rally was kick-started when safety Marty Mattox intercepted a pass by Bulldogs quarterback Lucas Beatty early in the fourth quarter, setting up a touchdown pass from Matt Johnson to C.J. Crawford and cutting Gardner-Webbs lead to 45-31.
But the most egregious turnover came when Bulldogs running back Juanne Blount fumbled late in the game. Charlottes Alan Barnwell scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown on a 56-yard run on the next play.
Turnovers will be the demise of the loser most of the time, said McCray. Certainly the turnovers didnt help us. They took advantage of good field position and executed really well.
• The 49ers defense had trouble containing Gardner-Webb, but finally did in the fourth quarter when it most mattered. And they did it by doing what they do best: forcing turnovers.
I wasnt sure we could ever slow them down, said 49ers coach Brad Lambert. But I told them to keep hoeing and keep pushing. Then lo and behold, we got a couple of turnovers.
• Center Thomas La Bianca earned the honorary jersey No. 49. La Bianca left the game in the second quarter with a knee sprain.
• The 49ers have been streaky the last two weeks. They scored 38 consecutive points in a 45-21 victory against Presbyterian, then scored 29 in a row Saturday.
• Freshman linebacker Nico Alcalde, a former walk-on, had the first sack of his college career.
• The crowd of 12,222 was the lowest turnout of the season in 15,314-seat Richardson Stadium. Students being on fall break played a big part in the 49ers not filling the stadium for the first time, but thats still a low number for a game involving two schools located near each other. And, it seems, the students didnt want to wait an extra day or two before heading home.
• Gardner-Webb converted eight of its first 10 third-down conversions, but finished the game converting just one of five.
• Best hustle play of the day came by Charlottes Dmarjai Devine, who chased down Gardner-Webbs Drew White after White had picked up a blocked field goal and appeared to be going 60 yards for a touchdown. Devine knocked White out of bounds at the 2.
By the numbers
184All-purpose yards by 49ers WR Mikel Hunter (119 kick returns, 68 receiving, minus-3 punt return)
12Fumble recoveries by Charlotte this season.
586Total yards by 49ers, breaking record of 533 set against N.C. Central.
The 49ers host Division II UNC Pembroke next Saturday. The Braves (4-0) are ranked 13th nationally and were off this weekend.
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