The competition might not have been top notch, and it took a while thanks to a few long weather delays, but the Charlotte 49ers got a sorely needed college football victory Saturday.
Charlotte, looking shaky at times early in the game, recovered in time to beat Fordham 34-10 in their season opener before a crowd of 9,240 at Richardson Stadium.
The 49ers gave up an early Rams touchdown, but blew the game open in the second half behind junior running back Benny LeMay (135 yards, two touchdowns) and redshirt freshman wide receiver Victor Tucker (seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown). Quarterback Chris Reynolds, playing in his first college game, completed 13-of-20 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown.
The 49ers, coming off a 1-11 season, outgained Fordham, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision’s Patriot League, 493-287. The 49ers’ defense sacked Rams quarterback Luke Medlock four times.
The 49ers had 11 sacks and two interceptions last season, and those shortcomings were exposed early in the game when linebacker Jeff Gemmell couldn’t wrap up Medlock in the backfield and, after Medlock got off a pass, Ed Rolle dropped a certain interception.
But the 49ers, who had 11 sacks all of last season, ended up with four against the Rams, including two on successive plays in the second quarter. Timmy Horne had the first one and Alex Highsmith had the second. And Juwan Foggie returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Three who mattered
Benny LeMay: Charlotte’s junior tailback ran through and past Fordham’s defense, gaining 135 yards and scoring twice. It was LeMay’s third career 100-yard game. LeMay finished with 218 all-purpose yards, also catching three passes for 83 yards.
Victor Tucker: Have the 49ers found a new playmaker? Tucker, a redshirt freshman from Miami Gardens, Fla., dropped the first pass thrown to him, but ended up with seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Luke Medlock: Fordham’s quarterback was sacked four times, but managed to complete 22 of 47 296 yards.
▪ The start of the game was delayed because of severe weather in the area. Kickoff came at 7:14 p.m., 74 minutes after the scheduled 6 p.m. start. Another delay, at halftime, lasted 75 minutes.
▪ Charlotte’s offensive line struggled at times, especially with All-Conference USA honorable mention guard Nate Davis serving the first of a four-game suspension for breaking undisclosed NCAA rules. Reynolds was sacked three times in the first half.
▪ Mixed results for freshman kicker Jonathan Cruz, who made field goals of 24 and 39 yards, but missed a 26-yarder late in the second quarter. The 49ers are looking for more reliability from that position, after three kickers missed nine of 13 attempts last season.
▪ Richardson Stadium will be the site Sunday of a junior college game between Lackawanna (Pa.) and ASA Miami. Game time is 1 p.m. and admission is free.
▪ In addition to the weather delays, there was a scoreboard malfunction in Richardson Stadium in the second half and some of the fourth quarter was played in semi-darkness because the lights on the visitors’ side of the stadium went out.
They said it
“I thought the kids did a good job of staying focused and maintained a good energy level when we played the game. I thought Fordham would come in with a good energy level and they did.” -- Charlotte coach Brad Lambert.
“I didn’t see it coming but it happened tonight.” -- Foggie, who came to Charlotte as a wide receiver, on his interception for a touchdown.
“The attention to detail wasn’t where it needs to be for us to be successful. That’s what happens.” -- Fordham coach Joe Conlin.
“When you can drive 97 yards and have a big play in there, that kills the othetr team.” -- Reynolds, on a long 49ers drive in the second half that lasted 8 minutes, 18 seconds, resulted in a touchdown and increased their lead to 27-10.
The 49ers will play host to Appalachian State on Saturday. The Mountaineers lost 45-38 in overtime to Penn State on Saturday. Fordham is at Richmond.