It wasn’t a pretty sight for the sellout crowd that saw the Charlotte 49ers take on the North Carolina Central Eagles at Jerry Richardson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Behind five interceptions by Matt Johnson–among eight turnovers overall by the Niners–and a steady performance by Jordan Reid and the running game coupled with some strong defense, the Eagles crushed Charlotte, 40-13, dealing the Green and White their first loss of the season.
The offense sputtered for Charlotte in this one as they went three and out on their first two possessions. But Central wasn’t able to get into the end zone themselves in the first quarter, settling for two field goals by Oleg Parent to go ahead 6-0–the last one set up by a Alan Barnwell fumble at the Charlotte 22. It would have been 9-0 early in the 2nd if not for a blocked Parent field goal.
However, Johnson struggled throughout the day as he and his teammates couldn’t carry the momentum of that play. On the ensuing drive, he threw the first of his five picks to give the Eagles the ball, but again, Central couldn’t find the end zone as Deyonta Wright coughed it up at the Charlotte 5 to snuff a potential scoring chance. Johnson gave it right back to the Eagles with his second pick, and this time a solid rushing attack, capped by a four-yard score by Wright, made it 13-0 before the break.
Any chance of grabbing momentum back from the Eagles to start the second half was quickly snuffed as Adrian Wilkins returned the opening kick for a touchdown to make it 20-0. After teams traded punts, another Johnson pick, his third, found its way into the arms of Tony Williams, who ran it back 48 yards for the score; they would make it 33-0 on their next drive behind another solid running attack. The Niners would finally find the end zone in the 4th on an Alan Barnwell 2-yard carry to cut it to 33-6 (not before Johnson opened the quarter with his 4th pick), but later in the period, another Johnson interception resulted in a final touchdown for Central to set the final margin.
Johnson did go 35-52 for a career-high 335 yards, but his five picks were a significant red mark on this day. Meanwhile, Jordan Reid went 14-23 for 178 yards through the air and recorded nine carries for 41 yards. Idreis Augustus led the Eagles on the ground with 16 carries, 81 yards and two scores; Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips led all rushers with 20 carries for 85 yards. Despite the loss, the Niners outgained the Eagles on offense, 533-385–but turnovers killed them today.
So what went wrong? Check back tomorrow as we’ll break down what we saw in this game.