Charlotte kept pace with undefeated Temple for two quarters Friday night, but the 49ers’ hopes of an upset were washed away by third-quarter miscues in a 37-3 home loss.
Charlotte (2-3) trailed 10-3 at the half, but the Owls (4-0) scored three third-period touchdowns. Short punts set up two of the scores, and Temple blocked a punt for the third touchdown.
The 49ers’ offense, which committed 16 turnovers in two previous losses, protected the ball much better in the almost-nonstop downpour. Charlotte quarterback Lee McNeill, who had four interceptions in last week’s loss to Florida Atlantic, had only one pass picked off Friday night, and the 49ers didn’t lose a fumble.
But the offense repeatedly stalled in Temple territory in the first half and was held in check by the Owls after intermission. The 49ers converted only four of their 17 third-down opportunities.
Temple built a 10-0 lead on a 39-yard Austin Jones field goal in the first quarter and a 1-yard touchdown by Jahad Thomas in the second period. A 36-yard Blake Brewer field goal cut the Owls’ lead to 10-3 shortly before the half.
Thomas ran for two more Temple touchdowns in the third quarter, and Nate Smith scored on a 16-yard blocked punt return.
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said the punting problems were crucial. “We’ve got to do better on special teams,” he said. “Those punts weren’t good.”
The Owls completed their scoring on a 13-yard fourth-down pass from P.J. Walker to Robby Anderson.
3 who mattered
Jahad Thomas: Temple running back carried 20 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
Khalif Phillips: The 49ers’ standout running back had 19 carries for 125 yards. It was his second straight 100-yard game. He has nine of the top 10 single-game rushing performances in school history.
Alex Starzyk: While Charlotte had punting problems in the bad weather, Starzyk kicked well for the Owls. He averaged 44 yards in his four kicks.
▪ Punting problems hurt Charlotte in the third quarter. Two short punts put Temple in good field position, and the Owls followed with touchdowns. Late in the period, Temple blocked a punt for a touchdown. It was the first blocked punt for a touchdown in 49ers’ history.
▪ Charlotte had more total yardage in the first half Friday night (219) than in the entire game last week against Florida Atlantic (206).
▪ A penalty played a key role in Temple’s first touchdown drive. An incomplete pass would have left the Owls with a third-and-8 situation at Charlotte’s 49, but a personal foul against the 49ers gave Temple a first down. The Owls scored eight plays later.
▪ Temple has started 4-0 for the first time since 1974.
▪ >One perfect streak came to an end early in the game. Temple kicker Austin Jones entered the game with 7-for-7 on field goals. He was wide-left on a 36-yard attempt midway in the first quarter. He made a 39-yarder later in the period.
▪ The 49ers haven’t gotten much of a break from the weather this season. Their home opener, Sept. 12 against Presbyterian, was played under a threat of rain. It started pouring during the second half of the Sept. 26 game against Florida Atlantic, and that set the stage for Friday’s awful weather.
▪ 49ers coach Brad Lambert showed his gambling side late in the first quarter, calling for a fake punt from Charlotte’s 26. Punter Arthur Hart ran 9 yards for a first down.
▪ The game drew an announced crowd of 13,105 to Richardson Stadium. The 49ers have averaged about 15,500 fans for their three home games this season. That is near stadium capacity.
“Khalif (Phillips) had another big game, running for more than 100 yards again. We’ve got to find a way to get him the ball more.” – Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert.