CHARLESTON If fourth-quarter mistakes did in the Charlotte 49ers against Charleston Southern on Saturday, it was the Buccaneers’ bruising running game that provided the underpinning of the Buccaneers’ 36-14 victory.
Charleston Southern, ranked 24th in the Football Championship Subdivision’s coaches poll, rolled up 548 yards in total offense, 375 of them on the ground. Those were both season highs against the 49ers.
Doing most of the damage out of the Bucs’ triple-option offense was junior running back Christian Reyes, who ran for 181 yards on 26 carries.
“We faced triple-option teams a lot at Navy and Georgia Tech,” said 49ers coach Brad Lambert, a former assistant at Wake Forest and Georgia. “(Reyes) is as good a (triple-option) back as any I’ve seen. He’s tough, compact, has good vision and is physical.”
Reyes broke Charleston Southern’s season rushing record during the game. He’s got 953 yards for the season through eight games.
It wasn’t surprising that the triple option gave the 49ers trouble. It was the first time the young Charlotte team has seen it this season. It’s tricky to defend, with players needing patience and discipline to stay in their lanes before the quarterback hands off or pitches the ball.
“They eventually wore us down,” said linebacker Nico Alcalde, who led the 49ers with eight tackles (three for a loss), forced a fumble and recovered it. “You’ve got to stay on your guy and you can’t run out too fast on him, or the quarterback is going to keep it and it’s a missed assignment for you. It’s tough to keep your discipline.”
And when Reyes ended up with the ball, more problems were presented.
• 49ers linebacker Tyler DeStefani played for the first time this season after injuring his finger in training camp. DeStefani, who had three tackles, attended Charlotte’s United Faith but played high school ball for the Carolina Pride, a team made up of home-schoolers and players whose schools don’t have football teams.
• The 49ers used a trick play to set up their first touchdown. Slot receiver Corey Nesmith Jr. caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage from Matt Johnson, then threw a 41-yard pass to Trent Bostick, who had gotten behind the Bucs’ defense at the 7. Khalif Phillips scored on the next play, bouncing to the left side after getting bottled up in the middle of the line.
• Charleston Southern, which lost starter Malcolm Dixon for the season to a knee injury in a victory against Appalachian State, used two quarterbacks against the 49ers. Reshirt-freshman Daniel Croghan started, completing 15 of 22 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. True-freshman Kyle Copeland didn’t throw much but was dangerous running in the triple option, picking up 32 yards on 10 carries.
• Long snapper Keaston Sinicki (Charlotte Catholic) wore the honorary No. 49 for Charlotte.
• Tough day for Bucs kicker Mark Deboy, who missed field-goal attempts of 35 and 29 yards in the first quarter and an extra point in the third quarter. Deboy was benched by the end of the game, with T.J. Higgins taking – and making – the Bucs’ final PAT. Deboy continued to kick off late in the game, though.
By the numbers
12 Third-down conversions by Charleston Southern (in 19 plays).
3 Takeaways by Charlotte (26 for the season).
114 Yards by 49ers receiver Trent Bostick, leading the team.
• 49ers quarterback Matt Johnson ran the ball 13 times (gaining 47 yards) and punctuated many of those runs by lowering his shoulder and trying to run over the defender. He said after the game that’s how he plays and might learn how to slide and avoid defenders – next year.
• Although the 49ers rued the mistakes they made that might have cost them the game, they also received their fair share of breaks, with Deboy missing two field goals and Charleston Southern turning the ball over three times.
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