49ers hang on in roller coaster win over the Eagles

Photo by Ben Coon.

The 49ers football team celebrating while Branden Dozier returns a fumble for a 52 yard touchdown . Photo by Ben Coon.

In an unforgettable game against the North Carolina Central Eagles, the Charlotte 49ers football team came out of Durham with a 40-28 win.

With the first three quarters being a blowout, the 49ers seemed to be en route to an easy victory, but the Eagles had a different idea of how it would end.

The score at the beginning of the fourth quarter was 40-0, but the final score was much different, thanks to an incredible run of 28 unanswered points from the Eagles.

Coach Lambert talked about holding North Carolina Central scoreless for three quarters and their turnaround to 28 unanswered points.

“Some things didn’t go our way. There was a pick six and we left our guys in there to try and reward them for their good play earlier. But hey, we won it.”

The 49ers opened the game with a 65-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Matt Johnson to Austin Duke on the first play from scrimmage. The touchdown was Duke’s first of the season.

Charlotte tacked on two field goals from kicker Blake Brewer to extend their advantage to 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. Brewer connected on two chip shots from just 24 and 28 yards out respectively.

The 49ers found the end zone with ease throughout most of the second quarter. Running back Kalif Phillips found the end zone twice in the quarter on a pair of goal-line runs that put Charlotte on top comfortably 26-0 with 8:09 remaining on the clock before halftime.

Phillips’ two scoring runs pushed his touchdown total to eight on the young season. He leads all FCS running backs in touchdowns through three weeks of the 2014 campaign.

Charlotte safety Branden Dozier recovered a fumble late in the first half and delivered a back-breaking 52-yard return all the way to the end zone that gave the 49ers a 33-0 lead heading into the locker room.

Both teams started slow in the third quarter but the 49ers finally broke through with 3:10 remaining in the quarter when true freshman running back Maetron Thomas took a six-yard scamper into the end zone to extend the Charlotte lead to a seemingly unsurmountable 40 points. Unfortunately for the 49ers, that’s when things started to get a bit dicey.

In the fourth, Eagles quarterback Malcolm Bell started to pick apart the dominant 49ers defense and connected on a 28-yard pass to speedster Adrian Wilkins for their first touchdown of the game, making the score 40-7.

Backup quarterback Lee McNeil then entered the game for Charlotte and immediately threw a pick-six, which was returned 26 yards making the game 40-14.

From then on, North Carolina Central scored two more touchdowns in a row, combined with a missed field goal from the 49ers. For the first time since the first quarter, the Eagles were actually in contention.

With the game much closer, the 49ers made a big play when they needed it, as they’ve done all year. Redshirt sophomore Tank Norman ended up being the player to deliver for Charlotte’s defense, with an interception to seal the game with two minutes left.

Norman talked about the conversations leading up to that play with his teammates.

“We said how we needed a turnover. The defense didn’t want to give up any more touchdowns. We needed a big play and I was happy I could deliver it.

Injuries were a big factor in this game, which Coach Lambert said is problematic.

“We’re getting a little beat up this year. (Kalif) Phillips is going to be okay. We have to have a doctor look at Colby (Clayton-Molby) and Eugene German’s ankle.”

Phillips did not play in the fourth quarter after exiting the contest with a bruised shoulder. Lambert most likely removed his starting running back for precautionary reasons with the big lead, much like in the Campbell game that opened the season.

With this win, the 49ers have avenged their loss from last year, where they fell to the Eagles 40-13. Larry Ogunjobi said that they needed to send a message in this game.

“This isn’t a first year program anymore. We gave them too many gifts last year, and this year we wanted to show them that we are a very good football team.”

Not only did Johnson deliver with his arm on Saturday night, he also racked up 150 yards on the ground on just 14 carries. Johnson tied for the longest run in school history in the fourth quarter when he broke one for 70 yards at a crucial moment with the Eagles building momentum.

Phillips continued his dominance of the 49ers competition, carrying the ball 14 times for 104 yards and the two touchdown runs in the first half. He has now scored a touchdown in seven straight games dating back to last season and he has scored multiple touchdowns in five straight contests for Charlotte.

Duke finished the night with 126 yards receiving, becoming the first Charlotte receiver to reach the 100-yard milestone this season.

The 49ers have improved to 3-0 on the season and have captured their first three-game winning streak in school history. Charlotte will be  looking to remain undefeated next weekend with a match-up on the road against the Elon Phoenix. Kickoff for that contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 20.

Photos by Ben Coon.

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