Football

Record day for defense in Charlotte 49ers’ home-opening win vs. Presbyterian

Charlotte 49ers receiver Austin Duke, left, tries to break away from Presbyterian’s Ed Britt Saturday at Richardson Stadium on the campus. Duke recorded his eighth 100-yard receiving game at Charlotte and finished the afternoon nine catches for 166 yards.
Charlotte 49ers receiver Austin Duke, left, tries to break away from Presbyterian’s Ed Britt Saturday at Richardson Stadium on the campus. Duke recorded his eighth 100-yard receiving game at Charlotte and finished the afternoon nine catches for 166 yards. WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM

A record-setting defensive performance and a new platooning system at quarterback gave the largest Charlotte 49ers’ home crowd plenty to cheer about Saturday in a 34-10 rout of Presbyterian.

Shaking off a slow start, the 49ers’ offense scored 24 points in the final 17 minutes of the first half and built a 34-0 lead before the Blue Hose (0-2) scored in the fourth quarter.

Charlotte (2-0) limited Presbyterian to 112 yards of total offense, breaking the 49ers’ defensive record of 197 yards set in last year’s home opener against Johnson C. Smith. The Blue Hose had 11 yards of offense and one first down in the opening half.

Charlotte coach Brad Lambert started freshman Brooks Barden at quarterback and alternated Barden and previous starter Matt Johnson throughout the first half.

“We wanted to get Brooks into the game,” Lambert said. “I thought he made some good plays. And Matt has plenty of good qualities that we need.”

Lambert said he expects to continue platooning the two “the rest of the way.”

Johnson completed eight of 11 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Barden had 11 of 17 completions for 77 yards and a score.

One week after turning the ball over five times against Georgia State, the 49ers had one turnover Saturday.

“We emphasized that all week,” Lambert said.

3 who mattered

Austin Duke: The 49ers’ junior wide receiver made a leaping catch for 43 yards on the first scoring drive, setting up a touchdown at a time when the 49ers were struggling offensively.

Zach Duncan: A freshman defensive end, Duncan had five tackles, including three for losses, along with a sack and a forced fumble.

Kalif Phillips: A junior running back, Phillips had several big runs in the first half and finished with 53 yards and a touchdown.

Observations

▪ Of the two 49er quarterbacks, Johnson had a better first half statistically. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Barden had 3-of-9 nine for 27 yards. But Barden was sharp in the second half, completing 8-of-8 for 50 yards.

▪ All three quarterbacks who competed in preseason for the 49ers’ starting job got playing time, with Lee McNeill entering the game in the closing three minutes.

▪ Running back Andrew Buie, a graduate transfer from West Virginia, rushed 12 times for a team-high 80 yards.

Worth mentioning

▪ One of the biggest cheers of the day came for the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band, which made its first appearance Saturday. The band received a standing ovation after its inaugural halftime show.

▪ Duke, a former Independence High standout, recorded his eighth 100-yard receiving game. He finished with nine catches for 166 yards.

▪ Another former area high school standout, Butler High’s Uriah LeMay, made a leaping 23-yard catch to set up a third-quarter touchdown.

▪ Saturday’s attendance was 16,631 – beating the old record by a single spectator. The original mark was set at Charlotte’s first game, in August 2013 against Campbell.

▪ Presbyterian offensive lineman Austin Allen, a senior from Cartersville, Ga., was taken from the stadium in an ambulance after a second-quarter injury. He was caught in a pile after a fumble. There was no immediate word on his condition.

They said it

“We were just clicking. It’s a whole new world for us.”– Charlotte safety Branden Dozier on the defense, which had several shaky performances last year but has been sharp in this season’s two victories.

“I haven’t played since high school, and I came out a bit rusty. Once I got going, I felt better.”– 49ers’ redshirt freshman quarterback Brooks Barden, who alternated with veteran Matt Johnson for much of the game.

“We got off to a slow start, but the defense really had our backs. In Conference USA, we won’t be able to make mistakes.”– Charlotte wide receiver Austin Duke.

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