There would be no slow start by the Charlotte 49ers this time.
Nine days after struggling in the first half of its season opener, Charlotte pounced on crosstown Johnson C. Smith quickly Saturday, beating the Golden Bulls 56-0 in front of a crowd of 15,875 at Richardson Stadium.
It took the 49ers 30 minutes to sort themselves out against Campbell on Aug. 28, eventually stretching a shaky 6-3 halftime lead into a 33-9 victory.
Against the Division II Golden Bulls, however, Charlotte (2-0) ran out to a 23-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back in posting the first shutout in the program’s one-plus season history.
“I challenged our guys to come out and execute early in the game,” 49ers coach Brad Lambert said. “I think they did that. We didn’t have those first-game unknowns like we did at Campbell, when we were trying to feel our way into the game.”
J.C. Smith, playing its first game, was never in it.
“It was really tough,” Golden Bulls coach Steven Aycock said. “Once they came out of their first game, they changed gears. You could tell they had a great week of preparation. And for our first game, we made too many mistakes. You can’t do that against a very good 49ers football team.”
Charlotte’s first two offensive plays went for big gains – a 21-yard pass from quarterback Matt Johnson to tailback Kalif Phillips and a 22-yarder to H-back Justin Bolus.
Phillips would score three times in the first half on runs of 6, 4 and 6 yards, the third consecutive time (including last season) he had scored that many times in a game.
“One thing you can’t prepare for is an environment like this,” Golden Bulls coach Steven Aycock sadi of facing the Football Championship Subdivision’s 49ers. “You don’t get a feel for it until you get here. You can practice it all you want in your stadium, but you don’t know how your guys are going to adapt it.”
The 49ers outgained the Golden Bulls 546-197. Johnson completed 13-of-18 passes to nine different receivers for 285 yards and a touchdown.
Charlotte’s defense also recorded a shutout for the first time in the program’s 13 games. It was sealed in the fourth quarter when the 49ers’ DeQuavius Reid blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by J.C. Smith’s Eric Amaya.
“The shutout was something we really wanted,” 49ers linebacker Nico Alcalde said. “The coaches kept telling us about it. And you could tell by the way we went after that field goal.”
It was also a good day for 49ers true freshmen. Receiver T.L. Ford scored a touchdown the first time he touched the ball in his career on a 24-yard pass from Johnson in the first quarter. Chris Montgomery, a receiver from Lawndale’s Burns High, had a 62-yard catch and run from backup quarterback Lee McNeill that set up the 49ers’ final points of the half, a 12-yard field goal by Blake Brewer.
And freshman Maetron Thomas, who scored on a 40-yard run last week against Campbell on his first career carry, added a 60-yard touchdown run Saturday.
The Golden Bulls struggled just about everywhere. Only the very-busy Mattias Lambrecht was effective, averaging 39.7 yards on nine punts.
The 49ers showed no inclination of slowing down in the second half. Safety Prince Mayela (West Mecklenburg High) intercepted a Keahn Wallace pass at the 48, tip-toeing down the sideline for a touchdown that made it 43-0 with fewer than 2 minutes played in the third quarter.
49ers linebacker Caleb Clayton-Molby, whose three fumble recoveries in 2013 ranked 12th nationally, recovered another in the first half.
Charlotte’s next seven games are against FCS opponents, beginning with a five-game stretch in which they play on road four times. That starts next Saturday at N.C. Central. Charlotte began a similar stretch last season after also beginning the season with two victories before losing 40-13 to N.C. Central.
“There will be a pretty good message sent this week,” Lambert said. “This is a five-game stretch against some pretty good teams that got after us pretty good last year.”