The Charlotte 49ers beat Fordham 34-10 in their season opener Saturday at Richardson Stadium, matching their 2017 victory total of one in the process.
Here are five takeaways from the game for Charlotte, which gets a substantially stiffer test on Saturday when Appalachian State visits:
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Reynolds did a solid job of running new coordinator Shane Montgomery’s pro-style offense. Taking most of his snaps under center, Reynolds had an efficient game, completing 13-of-20 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown.
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Reynolds made good use of the short, quick pass, especially with running back Benny LeMay, who turned one of those into a 71 yarder. LeMay ended up with 218 all-purpose yards (135 rushing, 83 receiving).
As promising as Reynolds’ start was, the most surprising performance of the game came from another redshirt freshman, receiver Victor Tucker. Although he dropped his first pass, Tucker quickly established a connection with Reynolds, finishing the game with seven catches (targeted 10 times) for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Tucker made a nice adjustment on an under-thrown ball by Reynolds in the third quarter, coming back to make what turned out to be a 60-yard play.
Impressive on third downs
The 49ers struggled on third downs — offensively and defensively — in 2017. Charlotte reversed those trends against the Football Championship Subdivision’s Fordham, converting seven-of-15 on offense and holding the Rams to three-of-15 defensively.
Charlotte’s most impressive drive of the game — a 14-play, 97-yarder that lasted 8 minutes, 18 seconds and resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Tucker — included four third-down conversions.
Defensively, the 49ers got off the field with regularity and held Fordham to minus-9 yards rushing, the lowest total in Rams history.
O-line yet to jell
The offensive line was without guard Nate Davis, who is serving a four-game suspension for breaking undisclosed NCAA regulations. And with Darren Drake, last season’s starter at center, shifted to right guard and Jaelin Fisher playing center, there are plenty of adjustments still to be made for a unit that is supposed to be among the 49ers’ strengths.
The line struggled at times early, allowing three sacks of Reynolds in the first half. Ultimately the unit settled down enough to help the 49ers roll up 488 yards in total offense.
Who’s the punter?
Charlotte’s special teams were a mixed bag. Freshman Jonathan Cruz, brought in to help what was a miserable 2017 kicking game, made two field goals (24 and 39 yards), but missed a 27-yarder. Three of his seven kickoffs were touchbacks.
Coach Brad Lambert said he will continue to use punters Jackson Vansickle (three for a 37.2-yard average against Fordham) and Kyle Corbett (two for 29.0) until one of them outright wins the job. But Lambert indicated he wasn’t particularly happy with either one of them Saturday.
Mark Quattlebaum muffed a punt early in the third quarter, leading to a Fordham field goal.