Last season, Charlotte’s home opener was as much a celebration of football as it was a football game. The contest was the first in school history, and it was a tribute to the alumni who pushed relentlessly for a program and administrators who made it happen. The occasion was one of the finest in Charlotte’s athletic history.
Saturday’s home opener was about football, and the 49ers played it beautifully. Quarterbacks had time to throw, receivers had time to break free and running backs had room to move.
Charlotte scored the first four times it had the ball and 10 of the first 11. The defense was consistently overwhelming. The 49ers beat undermanned Johnson C. Smith 56-0.
Not to take anything away from the team, but the Golden Bulls did some of their best work in section 131, where the school’s band sat. The weather was, as you know if you were in Charlotte on Saturday, sweltering.
The band came out wearing jackets over gold T-shirts emblazoned with the words VANQUISHING ALL COMERS WHO DARE TO CHALLENGE. They were allowed to remove the jackets.
Through four quarters, band members sat straight and performed or prepared to. They were so disciplined I don’t even know if they sweat. When the game ended they sat straight, as if they were waiting for one more opportunity to show what they could do.
Down on the field, it was the 49ers who showed what they could do. They set several school records Saturday, among them: the first shutout in school history; the largest victory margin in school history; the most first-quarter points, 23, in school history.
School history is 13 games old.
The 49ers are 2-0 and have outscored opponents (Campbell last week) 89-9.
They also were 2-0 last season and had outscored opponents 99-14.
Quarterback Matt Johnson, a redshirt freshman at the time, remembers thinking, “This college football stuff is pretty easy.”
Then, in game three, they hosted N.C. Central. They trailed 33-0 and lost 40-13.
Charlotte plays N.C. Central on Saturday at Durham’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
What do you remember about the 27-point loss?
Johnson, who was so controlled Saturday, hitting 13 of 18 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown, remembers trying too hard.
“I was really flustered in that game, too much playmaking and not enough letting guys play their game,” Johnson says.
Last season, the 49ers amassed more than 500 yards of offense but turned the ball over seven times. Johnson threw five interceptions.
“We’ve got a completely different team than last year,” Johnson says.
Next week is a test and an opportunity for the 49ers. As convincing as Saturday’s victory was, the program is still finding its place. Next season the 49ers will add lights and play a Football Bowl Subdivision schedule.
Regardless of the outcome against N.C. Central, the 49ers are off to a terrific start. They won five of 11 games last season and coach Brad Lambert has worked to make his college team Charlotte’s college team.
They’re entertaining. The 49ers ripped off a 60-yard run and threw passes of 62, 51, 35, 32, 27 and 21 yards. They gained 546 total yards.
They attracted 15,875 fans Saturday, a sellout boosted by the presence of Johnson C. Smith fans.
If you’re a fan of the 49ers, or of potentially big-time college football in Charlotte, you ought to be curious about what comes next.