It won’t be difficult for the Charlotte 49ers’ coaching staff and players to find the big problems when they watch video of their season-opening 24-7 loss Friday night at Eastern Michigan.
Most of the big errors were marked with penalty flags.
The 49ers were penalized 11 times, mostly when they had the ball. Add in three interceptions, and you have the ingredients for defeat.
“It’s a hard enough game when you don’t make those mistakes, but when you put yourselves behind the chains, it’s just too difficult,” Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert said afterward.
Here are five takeaways from the 49ers’ opener:
There are penalties … and there are bad penalties
Being flagged 11 times for infractions is bad enough, but many of those penalties were drive-killers for Charlotte. Case in point: Trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter, the 49ers drove to the Eastern Michigan 32, headed for a tying score. But two personal fouls and a procedure penalty snuffed out the drive.
“We had opportunities – we had plenty of opportunities, but shot ourselves in the foot” Lambert said.
Defensive front fared well
The 49ers limited Eastern Michigan to 126 yards rushing, for an average of 3.1 yards a carry. Take away a 20-yard run by the Eagles’ Shaq Vann, and the numbers get even more impressive.
Much of the credit goes to the defensive front, a relatively inexperienced group with two freshmen seeing action.
“I thought our D-line played decently against their O-line,” Lambert said.
49er linebackers stood out
Sophomore Jeff Gemmell had a big night with 14 tackles (two for losses) and a sack. Fellow linebacker Karrington King, formerly of Charlotte Catholic, had 10 tackles and is two shy of Larry Ogunjobi’s career mark with the 49ers. Ogunjobi is now with the Cleveland Browns.
7 points won’t get it done
Charlotte’s offense, thought to be the team’s strength, was not sharp. Quarterback Hassan Klugh completed only 43 percent of his passes (12 of 28) and had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Running backs Robert Washington (49 yards rushing) and Benny LeMay (13 yards) were held in check.
And the 49ers converted only 5-of-16 on third-down situations. But third-down conversions and play-calling were affected by the penalties.
It won’t get any easier
Next up for the 49ers is a road trip Saturday to 19th-ranked Kansas State (noon kickoff). Then Charlotte returns home to face N.C. A&T, the No. 25-ranked FCS team. Farther down the road are games against rugged foes such as Western Kentucky, Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee.