Charlotte coach Brad Lambert thought his team was ready for the challenge of facing its first Top 25 opponent.
As it turned out, it was Louisville that was more than ready to face the 49ers.
The 19th-ranked Cardinals manhandled Charlotte in their season opener Thursday night, rolling to a 70-14 victory at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, Louisville (1-0) scored on eight straight possessions in the first half to build a 56-0 halftime lead against the overmatched 49ers (0-1).
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Jackson, a sophomore, threw for 286 yards and six touchdowns – all to different receivers – and ran for 119 yards and scores of 36 and 1 yards, all in the first half.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino rested Jackson (as well as most of the starters) in the second half, with backup Kyle Bolin adding two touchdown passes for the Cardinals.
Charlotte didn’t break the shutout until midway through the third quarter, getting a break after Kedrick Davis’ interception left the 49ers with a short field.
Kevin Olsen took advantage, finding Austin Duke in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard TD pass with 8 minutes, 36 seconds left.
The 49ers’ second score also came because of a break, with Anthony Covington jumping on a fumbled punt return in the end zone with 3:48 left in the game.
Three who mattered
Lamar Jackson: The Cardinals quarterback set a program record by accounting for eight touchdowns, and tied a record with six touchdown passes – all in the first half.
Evan O’Hara: Outside of Jackson, he scored the most points of any Louisville player. He was a perfect 9-for-9 on extra-point kicks.
Arthur Hart: Charlotte’s punter was easily the 49ers’ busiest player, with a school-record 11 punts for a 38.5 yards-per average. Two of his kicks went 50 or more yards, including a long of 58.
▪ Charlotte’s 56-point loss to Louisville was its worst since the 49ers’ school-record 73-14 loss (59 points) to Middle Tennessee last year.
▪ In building its big first-half lead, Louisville didn’t run many more plays than Charlotte (39-33) and actually had possession for less time (13:56, to 16:04 for the 49ers). The yards per play average was significantly in the Cardinals’ favor though (11.9 yards per play, to 2.8 for the 49ers).
▪ Olsen had his ups and downs in his first start for Charlotte. He threw for 141 yards on 16 of 29 attempts, with the one touchdown and no interceptions. He was also sacked twice and picked up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter.
▪ While the 49ers’ defense was able to get pressure on Jackson, he was also able to get out of trouble. He had 103 rushing yards by the end of the first quarter, and kept several other drives going with his scrambling.
▪ Davis, a Berry High graduate who transfered from North Carolina, made his first interception in a 49ers uniform in the third quarter. That set up Charlotte’s touchdown.
▪ Two Louisville players have Charlotte connections – starting cornerback Jaire Alexander played at Rocky River High, and inside linebacker Isaac Stewart is a Butler High grad.
▪ Lambert picked defensive lineman Justin Bolus, one of Charlotte’s 19 redshirt seniors, to wear the 49ers’ No. 49 jersey in the season opener.
▪ Workpeh Kofa, a redshirt sophomore, got the starting nod when Charlotte senior wide receiver Trent Bostick did not make the trip to Louisville after getting hurt in practice.
▪ Three other 49ers were injured during Thursday’s game: left tackle Jamal Covington, cornerback Terrance Winchester and running back Robert Washington.
▪ Charlotte will play its home opener on Sept. 10, hosting FCS program Elon at Richardson Stadium. Game time is 6 p.m.