The Charlotte 49ers put their brief time in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision behind them Saturday with a 52-14 season-ending victory against Morehead State at Richardson Stadium.
After two years in FCS, the 49ers (5-6) move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA in 2015.
“I’m proud of where we are,” 49ers coach Brad Lambert said. “What I’m looking most forward to is next year we’ll be like everybody else. We’ll have our full complement of players and coaches, and everything will be in place. It will be full tilt.”
The 49ers dominated Morehead State (4-8) in their second and final season as an FCS independent.
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With running backs Kalif Phillips (187) and Damarrell Alexander (107) both rushing for more than 100 yards, the 49ers took a 31-0 lead at halftime against a team they beat 61-17 last season. With quarterback Lee McNeill (193 yards, two touchdowns) starting his third consecutive game for injured Matt Johnson, the 49ers rolled up 493 total yards.
The 49ers’ big plays in the first half, included H back Richard Murphy scoring on a 71-yard pass from McNeill, during which Murphy shed and outran several Eagles defenders down the sideline.
In the third quarter, Alexander scored again, this time on a 63-yard run.
Charlotte’s defense also set the tone by forcing three turnovers in the first quarter (although defensive Greg Cunningham fumbled his interception back to Morehead State).
“We made some defensive plays early to establish (dominance),” Lambert said. “I was worried about their offense. But our defensive front needed to play well to establish the pace of the game, and it did that.”
With Blake Brewer opening the scoring with a school-record 51-yard field goal and Phillips scoring twice (on runs of 59 and 37 yards) and Alexander once (5 yards), Charlotte led 24-0 after one quarter.
“That’s probably our worst start we’ve had all year,” Morehead State coach Rob Tenyer said. “Charlotte had a lot to do with that.”
It was name-the-score after that as most of the attention was shifted to the seven seniors who were playing their final college game. Then the focus switched to where the Charlotte program moves to next season. Only one school – C-USA’s Texas-San Antonio – has made the jump from no football to FBS in a shorter amount of time.
“(The seniors) wanted to win for these guys, to leave them on a good note,” senior offensive guard Daniel Blitch sadi. “They’re going to have more competitive games next season. We hope we’ve helped build a program that’s based on toughness and discipline.”
The game was played before a crowd of 10,826, the second lowest in program history. In fact, Charlotte’s smallest crowds came in the 49ers’ final three games.
“I hope things will be better next year when we have some teams that come in here from (C-USA),” Lambert said. “There will be some high-octane football out there. Our fans have been great, though. I don’t have an issue with anything going on with our fans.”