In a season full of “firsts” for the new Charlotte 49ers football program, Matt Johnson lead the Niners (4-2) to their first win over a nationally ranked opponent against Gardner-Webb. It was by far Charlotte’s most competitive game of the season against a tough squad that’s beaten a handful of ranked teams themselves this year.
After being tied 24-24 at halftime, Gardner-Webb scored 21 unanswered points to open the second half in a game that looked like the Runnin’ Bulldogs would run away with. With the score of 45-24 heading into the fourth quarter, the Charlotte 49ers were able to score 29 unanswered points of their own. Matt Johnson brought the game within two touchdowns with a 5 yard touchdown pass to C.J. Crawford two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter. A safety coming from a bad snap on a GW punt from their own 38 cut the Bulldog’s lead to 45-33 with just over five minutes to go in the game. The 49ers were able to score three touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes and 8 seconds to go up by eight points at the end of the contest. Gardner-Webb scored a touchdown with under a minute to go, but couldn’t convert the 2-point conversion the send the game to OT.
Gardner-Webb came into the game known for having a stout defense, but Matt Johnson and Co. were able to rack up 586 total yards on offense (342 passing, 244 rushing) and have no turnovers on the day. Johnson put up Peyton Manning-esque numbers, throwing for 342 yards and 5 TDs without any interceptions. Phillips and Barnwell continue to be effective as a 1-2 punch on the ground, running for 75 and 97 yards with a touchdown each. Despite being dominated on time of possession (37:05-22:54) and giving up 577 total yards on defense, Charlotte was able to win the turnover battle 3-0 which is a big reason the Niners were able to come away with the victory.
Charlotte welcomes UNC Pembroke next Saturday to Jerry Richardson Stadium for Homecoming.