After seven consecutive weeks, the Charlotte 49ers finally get some time off.
But dealing with a 45-22 loss against UNC Pembroke on Saturday isn’t how the 49ers would have wanted to spend their two-week break before returning for a game Oct. 26 at Charleston Southern.
“You always want to win going into an open week,” said 49ers coach Brad Lambert. “But we’ve got a young team and we’ve got to stick together and learn from mistakes.”
The 49ers originally were to have the first of two weeks off after their third game. But when a game against Old Dominion was canceled on Nov. 16, Charlotte re-scheduled a game against James Madison for Sept. 21. That meant Charlotte would have to wait seven weeks until finally getting a rest in what is its inaugural season. Charlotte gets another week off Nov. 16 before finishing the season Nov. 23 at Morehead State.
The 49ers were also playing a well-rested UNC Pembroke team that had played just four games and had last week off.
“Playing (seven) weeks in a row is going to wear on your body,” said Charlotte linebacker Micah Bryan, who led the 49ers with 13 tackles. “But that’s no excuse. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t that tired in the fourth quarter. Our strength and conditioning coaches did a good job of having us in good enough shape to win this game.”
Lambert said the 49ers will lift weights Monday, then practice Tuesday through Thursday before taking the rest of the week off.
• The 49ers’ special teams struggled. Mikel Hunter fumbled a punt early in the fourth quarter. A Blake Brewer field-goal attempt was partially blocked – the third time that’s happened this season. UNC Pembroke’s George Whigham averaged 32 yards on three kickoff returns – one a 52-yarder.
• Austin Duke and Mikel Hunter both led the 49ers with nine catches each. Duke’s 128 yards set a school record. Hunter had seven catches in the first quarter (with one touchdown), but only two the rest of the way.
• The attendance of 16,630 was the 49ers’ fourth standing-room-only crowd of the season. One home game remains, against Division III Wesley (Del.) Nov. 9.
• UNC Pembroke’s short-passing game resulted in plenty of time with the ball. The Braves’ time of possession was 40 minutes, 54 seconds; Charlotte had the ball for 19:06.
• UNC Pembroke coach Pete Shinnick on Braves quarterback Luke Charles, who threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns: “He executed every aspect of our offense. He epitomizes what a fifth-year senior should be as your starting quarterback.”
• Charlotte safety Martay Mattox left the game in the second half with a head injury. Lambert said he’s hopeful Mattox will be back for the Charleston Southern game.
By the numbers
1 Turnover forced by Charlotte (49ers had been averaging 3.6 per game and leading the country).
10 Catches apiece by UNC Pembroke’s Ben DeCelle and B.J. Bunn.
3 Red-zone scores for Charlotte.
3 Times in the red zone all game for 49ers.
The 49ers take a week off before playing at 25th-ranked Charleston Southern (7-0) at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The Bucs, who beat Virginia Military Institute 25-17 in a Big South game Saturday, are at Colorado next week.
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