49ers notes: Hunter provides highlights

August 21, 2011, 4:20 am
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rookie running back Kendall Hunter provided the highlights Saturday night for the 49ers, a team that struggled in every aspect of its exhibition opener a week earlier.Hunter, a fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State, tore loose on a 53-yard touchdown run that gave the 49ers their first touchdown in an eventual 17-3 victory over the Raiders at Candlestick Park.
Yes, Hunter's run was difficult to overlook. He picked up good blocks from an offensive line that redeemed itself nicely and showed a nice burst of speed en route to the end zone.
But the play that might have showed that he is ready for an opportunity to be a significant contributor as a backup for starter Frank Gore came on the next series. Hunter upended blitzing Raiders safety Matt Giordano to enable quarterback Colin Kaepernick to hit tight end Konrad Reuland for a 13-yard gain."You know you can't play unless you can do blitz pickup and you're able to block," Hunter said. "I have an advantage because I'm low to the ground. I'm short (5-foot-7). So as long as I get on them, I'll be all right."RECAP: Hunter runs 49ers past Raiders 17-3
Hunter finished the game with 105 yards and a touchdown on nine rushing attempts to lead an offense that rolled up 239 yards on the ground."It's the O-line," Hunter said. "They get all the credit." Gore rushed for 21 yards on four tries before calling it a night's work. Anthony Dixon gained 53 yards on 12 carries. In the second half, Xavier Omon, the 49ers' No. 4 running back, added 62 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts."Offensively, I think it started with our offensive line, which was reflected a lot by what the running backs did, with Frank Gore, Anthony Dixon, and Kendall Hunter, who had a big day," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Xavier Omon had (a big day) as well. I think it's a reflection on our offensive line, the way they handled the blitz pick-up I thought was a big improvement from last week."The 49ers, who were sacked six times in the opener against the Saints, were sacked twice by the Raiders. The 49ers gained 402 total yards, while holding the Raiders to just 214 yards.SMITH REBOUNDS: After struggling along with the entire 49ers' offense in the exhibition opener against the Saints, quarterback Alex Smith made some strides. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 126 yards. However, the 49ers managed just three points while he was in the game.The 49ers second drive ended when Smith threw an interception when he failed to recognize defensive end Matt Shaughnessy dropping into coverage in front of tight end Vernon Davis at the left sideline."We talked about it, we feel like it's a correctable thing," Harbaugh said. "We know why it happened and we have to do a little better job with our eyes and we will get that corrected."The 49ers opened the game with a 16-play, 75-yard drive but did not come away with any points after a field-goal was botched. The 49ers' next drive halted after seven plays on Smith's interception."Obviously, we improved from last week," Smith said. "But if we want to be the kind of team we talk about being, we have to do better in the red zone and we can't turn the ball over. Those first two drives, we didn't finish. Can't do that."EDWARDS-SMITH CONNECTION: Receiver Braylon Edwards and Smith spent a lot of extra time on the practice field during the week. During their time together in the first quarter, they hooked up twice for 46 yards, including Edwards' spectacular one-handed grab for 32 yards."There are some thing that he and I probably feel more comfortable than others," Edwards said. "There are some things more foreign to us and some things that aren't."LEE BRUISED BUT OK: Punter Andy Lee sustained a possible right hip pointer upon being thrown to the ground while trying to throw a pass after a mishandled snap on a first-quarter field-goal attempt. Lee was in obvious pain after the game, but he is expected to be all right."I don't think it's a serious thing," Harbaugh said.Lee was unable to punt the rest of the evening, forcing kicker David Akers to handle those duties. Akers had a 44-yard punt on his first try. The 49ers sent just 10 players out for his second attempt, which was blocked.DEFENSIVE STAND: The 49ers' first-team defense was challenged at the beginning of the second quarter after the Raiders had a first-and-goal at the 49ers' 2.Patrick Willis ran down Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell for a 1-yard loss on first down. On third and goal from the 1, Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois stuffed fullback Marcel Reese for a 1-yard loss. Then, outside linebacker Parys Haralson sacked Campbell on a fourth down from the 2."That's kind of what we pride ourselves on," Haralson said. "You have Justin (Smith) and the big guys that are stopping it in the middle and once you're going for fourth and something, you're just coming off the ball and playing football."The 49ers eventually knocked Campbell out of the game when Ahmad Brooks delivered a hit to Campbell's left shoulder after Justin Smith recorded a sack and forced fumble.NEWS: Raiders' Campbell leaves game 'feeling dizzy'
The 49ers also recorded two interceptions in the game, as cornerback Tarell Brown and safety Madieu Williams picked off Raiders quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, respectively.