49ers seek revenge on the road against the NCCU Eagles

The Charlotte 49ers (2-0) will travel to Durham, N.C. tonight for their match-up with the North Carolina Central Eagles (1-1) looking for redemption from last year’s 40-13 embarrassment. The 49ers also entered the game last season undefeated sitting at 2-0 before suffering the first loss in program history at the hands of the Eagles.

Charlotte racked up over 500 yards of total offense in last year’s contest but a season-high seven turnovers derailed their early season winning streak. 49ers quarterback Matt Johnson looked uncomfortable in the pocket all day and threw five interceptions, including one that was returned 48 yards for an Eagles touchdown in the third quarter.

“I was really flustered that game,” said Johnson when asked about his performance against the Eagles last year.

“I tried to do too much play-making and I didn’t let the other guys do their thing. It just comes down to execution and that comes from time spent with the guys you’re playing with.”

The 49ers hung tough in the first half and entered the locker room within shouting distance trailing 13-0 but a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from NCCU’s speedster Adrian Wilkins broke the game open at the beginning of the second half and Charlotte was never able to recover.

Much like last year, Charlotte enters this game with a 2-0 record following two relatively easy wins over Campbell and Johnson C. Smith. 49ers Head Coach Brad Lambert should have his players focused on the task at hand heading into this season’s contest.

“We started 2-0 last year and they came in here and beat up on us pretty good,” said Lambert on Tuesday at his weekly press conference.

“You’ve got to respect everybody you play and prepare extremely hard for this particular game. Theses guys present a lot of challenges for us. They’re very athletic and we’ve got to go play them at their place which should be a tough environment.”

The 49ers looked rusty in the first half against Campbell two weeks ago but in the last six quarters Charlotte has outscored their opponents 83-6 led by six touchdowns from running back Kalif Phillips who tops all FCS backs in scoring runs in the first two weeks of the season.

Charlotte’s defense pitched their first shutout in program history against the Golden Bulls last weekend and will look to build on that momentum this week. The 49ers have been extremely effective pressuring the quarterback and all 11 guys have been flying to the ball on every play.

“Our big emphasis in the offseason has been our tackling,” said linebacker Nico Alcalde.

“I think our tackling has been much better this season and all 11 guys have been hawking to the ball which leads to better tackling.”

North Carolina Central enters today’s game with a 1-1 overall record. The Eagles kicked off the season with a difficult game on the road against East Carolina where they looked overmatched throughout en route to a 52-7 loss at the hands of the Pirates.

The Eagles rebounded nicely last week with a 34-7 victory over Elizabeth City State behind three touchdowns from their senior running back Andre Clarke.

Expect a heavy dose of Clarke again this week from the North Carolina Central offense after the Eagles ran all over Charlotte last year to the tune of 207 rushing yards.

Charlotte will need another big performance from Phillips tonight to keep the pressure off Johnson early in the game. Johnson was able to find a rhythm in the pocket against Johnson C. Smith and he finished the day completing 13 of 18 passes for 285 yards and one touchdown.

The Eagles have a knack for putting up points on the defensive side of the ball so Johnson has to avoid the turnovers that plagued him a year ago if the 49ers want to remain undefeated. Since the start of the 2012 season North Carolina Central has scored 20 touchdowns with their defense on the field.

Kickoff for tonight’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m. inside O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. The 49ers will look to improve to 3-0 as they enter unfamiliar territory with revenge on their mind.

 

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