Charlotte trounced Campbell 52-7 last season, and 49ers quarterback Matt Johnson knows that didn’t sit well with the Camels.
“They’re going to have a bad taste in their mouths,” said Johnson, whose team faces Campbell again Thursday, this time in Buies Creek to open the 2014 season.
The 49ers’ victory in 2013 came in the first game of their inaugural season. It was indelibly marked by a touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage: a 32-yard interception return by linebacker Mark Hogan.
“Last year’s game was a lot of relief for us all because of all the unknowns,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “It turned out positive. The play early in the game set it all up. On the sideline, we were thinking, ‘We’re going to be OK.’ ”
The 49ers went on to a 5-6 season, their first as a Football Championship Subdivision independent (they move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision’s Conference USA in 2015). After beating the Pioneer League’s (and nonscholarship) Camels, the 49ers got other expected victories against teams such as Division II Chowan and the Pioneer’s Morehead State; they also were beaten by teams from lower classifications: a nationally ranked Division II team, UNC Pembroke, as well as Division III power Wesley (Del.).
So despite last season’s lopsided outcome, Lambert said his team won’t look past Campbell.
“We’ve pushed it on them from January until now, and they’ve gotten the message,” Lambert said. “Everybody has good players, whether it’s Wesley or UNC Pembroke, whoever. (Campbell) has the ability beat us, no question about it. You’ll see this weekend in college football. Somebody will beat somebody they’re not supposed to beat in somebody else’s eyes.”
• The 49ers likely will be without starting center Thomas La Bianca for the Campbell game. Lambert says a preseason knee injury to La Bianca hasn’t healed sufficiently. Sophomore Jarred Barr, who played in all 11 games last season, would start in La Bianca’s place.
Also, backup running back Donjore Gainey will miss about a month with a knee injury.
• The 49ers will spend Wednesday night at a hotel in Raleigh (Buies Creek is about a three-hour drive east of Charlotte). The team will have a walk through at Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons High on Thursday before making the 30-minute drive to Buies Creek.
• Lambert said Campbell’s strength is in its offensive line, which returns five starters from last season’s 3-9 team. The Camels’ defense returns 10 starters – that’s off a unit that allowed 37.6 points per game.