The Charlotte 49ers dropped their second consecutive game Saturday, a 28-7 decision in Birmingham, Ala., to UAB. Here are five takeaways for the 49ers (2-3, 1-1 Conference USA), who have a bye on Saturday and play Oct. 13 against Western Kentucky (1-4, 0-1) at Richardson Stadium.
Another bad start
Here’s a troubling stat for the 49ers: 56-10.
That’s how badly Charlotte has been outscored in the first half of the past two games (Saturday’s loss to UAB and a 49-31 defeat at Massachusetts on Sept. 22). The 49ers fell behind UMass 28-0 before that game was five minutes old and trailed 21-0 against the Blazers with five minutes left in the first half.
The 49ers have been overmatched in both losses. But what’s worse, they haven’t been ready to play against opponents they knew would be ready. UMass had lost three in a row and UAB was looking for revenge after losing to the 49ers in 2017. Players said before the UAB game they wanted to head into the bye week carrying momentum from a victory. Instead, they get two weeks to stew over a season that is heading in the wrong way fast.
Even with the return of standout offensive guard Nate Davis from suspension, the 49ers offensive line was overrun by UAB. Quarterback Chris Reynolds ran for his life all game and was sacked five times. That has become a trend for Charlotte: Opponents have 16 sacks against the 49ers (nine times in the past two games). And the Blazers held Charlotte’s normally sturdy rushing attack to 69 yards (minus-24 of them coming on sacks of Reynolds).
The 49ers tried to shake things up offensively by inserting backup quarterback Hasaan Klugh a few times. He gives the 49ers a different look, as he is as dangerous running as he is passing. But, Klugh, last season’s starter, was ineffective. How coach Brad Lambert and offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery handle the impending return of second-string quarterback Evan Shirreffs, who has been out with an abdominal injury, will be intersting. Shirreffs could be back as soon as the Western Kentucky game.
3rd-down problems — again
The 49ers’ improved third-down conversion rate has been flipped in the past two weeks. After converting 49 percent through the first three games, Charlotte dipped to five-of-15 against UMass (33.3 percent) and 4-of-13 (32.5).
Redshirt freshman Victor Tucker hurt his shoulder in the first quarter and, after briefly trying to come back, didn’t return. The severity of the injury is unknown. Tucker, who had caught one pass for 6 yards, is off to a fine start, with 27 catches for 375 yards and two touchdowns. And although true freshman Rico Arnold caught six passes for 101 yards Saturday, Reynolds missed having his go-to receiver available.