Charlotte Starts Season 2-0 With Win Over Gardner-Webb
Charlotte, N.C. — Redshirt senior quarterback Chris Reynolds broke the 49ers’ all-time passing record, but it was Charlotte’s running game and stout defense that carried the 49ers (2-0) to a 38-10 victory over visiting Gardner-Webb (0-2), Saturday night at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
“I’m really proud of this football team. I answered the question a lot this week about was I concerned about a letdown,” 49ers head coach Will Healy said, referring to the 49ers win last week over Duke for the program’s first-ever power five victory. “That should be the expectation around here. I thought our guys did a really good job of handling it like professionals. By the time I saw them on Monday, they had already moved on. Credit to these guys for getting done what we expect to get done, and that’s finding ways to win.”
RUN IT BACK
Charlotte ran for over 300 yards for the first time in nearly two years and four different rushers scored touchdowns to lift the 49ers to the 28-point win. Each of those four rushers ran for 48 or more yards.
“I thought our backs ran really well and I thought we did a great job up front,” Healy noted. “I’ve said from the get go that I feel really good about our offensive line. We’ve got eight guys that can play at a really high level and are just getting better each week.”
Charlotte rushed 245 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, alone, to build a 28-10 halftime cushion.
ANOTHER STUDENT STORM
The 49ers then held the Runnin’ Bulldogs scoreless in the second half to the delight of the crowd of 12,272.
“Our students really brought great energy, again, for us,” Healy said. “They came out in a big way – they’ve been outstanding this year.”
Reynolds himself got the attack going with a career-best 37-yard rushing TD on the 49ers opening drive.
Newcomer Shadrick Byrd, a first-year transfer from Iowa, added a five-yard TD run before the end of the first quarter to put Charlotte ahead, 14-3. Calvin Camp’s one-yard rush pushed the lead to 21-3 early in the second quarter.
Gardner-Webb and Charlotte traded TDs to end the half, with freshman wideout Jairus Mack scoring his first collegiate touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Reynolds. It was Reynolds seventh straight game with a passing touchdown.
Reynolds, fittingly, hit redshirt senior receiver Victor Tucker, a favorite target of Reynolds for four years, for a 28-yard pickup late in the third quarter to pass Matt Johnson as the 49ers all-time passing leader. Reynolds, who came into the game needing 40 yards to break the record, finished with 103 yards before giving way to Texas A&M transfer James Foster. Foster was 5-of-8 for 65 yards.
Reynolds now has 5,469 career passing yards. Johnson’s record was 5,405.
“It’s a special moment,” Reynolds said, noting Johnson has been one of the alumni he sees often. “It’s a credit to everybody I’ve been here with. Cool moment. It’s good to celebrate with the guys that have been here forever and the new guys – to see the smiles on their faces and hugging me. I really appreciate it.”
Charlotte extended the lead to 35-10 on the opening drive of the third quarter when redshirt freshman back ChaVon McEachern scored from 13 yards out.
McEachern led the 49ers attack with 74 yards rushing while Camp finished with 65.
Charlotte’s defense meanwhile held the Runnin’ Bulldogs to 115 yards of total offense in the first half and 214 for the game. Charlotte finished with nine tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.
“We came up with some big defensive plays to keep that momentum where they weren’t necessarily back into it,” Healy added.
Defensive end Markees Watts’ strip sack in the first half moved him past Larry Ogunjobi for second-place on the 49ers all-time sacks charts. Watts has 13.5 career sacks, passing the current Cincinnati Bengal defensive tackle and leaving him 6.5 shy of Alex Highsmith’s all-time record of 20.0.
Charlotte finished the game with 474 yards of total offense, including 306 on the ground and 168 in the air.
Linebacker Tyler Murray led the 49ers with seven tackles (1.0 TFL) and Watts had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
EXTRA POINTS; NEXT!:
Kicker Jonathan Cruz was a perfect 5-for-5 on PATs, extending his current streak of consecutive makes to 46 to tie the 49ers all-time school record held by Blake Brewer.
Charlotte improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2015 and is now 8-2 at home under Healy.
The 49ers head to Georgia State for the first road of the season, Saturday, at 7 p.m.