Charlotte wins first FBS game over Georgia State, 23-20

The Charlotte 49ers entered into Saturday’s game against Georgia State having only played two seasons of college football and it being their first year in the FBS. The team is now playing in Conference USA and they opened up the 2015 season in a big way.

The Panthers started the game in the worst way possible after they fumbled two plays into their first drive. Charlotte’s Nick Cook forced a fumble and Terrance Winchester picked up and raced 43 yards for the touchdown.

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The 49ers defense came up strong again as they forced a three-and-out for the Panthers. Charlotte’s offense took the field for the first time in FBS history. The team began driving down the field, but it stalled out as Blake Brewer connected on a 45-yard field goal to give the team a 10-0 lead early.

Georgia State began threatening to get in the endzone as they moved down inside the 10 yard line of Charlotte. Winchester came up with another big play as he made an improbable interception in the endzone, giving his offense the ball for another drive. The team again stalled deep in their opponent’s territory, but Brewer came through with 35-yard field goal, giving his team a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

It seemed that every time the Panthers’ offense got something going, the 49ers’ defense came up with another big play. This time, David Pearson forced a fumble that was recovered by Cook at the team’s own 42. The Charlotte offense made their first costly mistake of the game as quarterback Mark Johnson threw an interception to Bobby Baker in the endzone.

The Panthers drove all the way down the field to get on the board with a field goal from 29-yards out by Wil Lutz. Late in the first half, the 49ers’ offense got in the endzone for the first time in FBS history after Johnson hit Austin Duke from 63-yards out to make the score 20-3 at the half.

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The Panthers opened up the third quarter with a 50-yard field goal by Lutz to make the score 20-6. Brewer answered for Charlotte with a 23-yarder just minutes later.

The second half was dominated by defense as the scoring came at a premium. For the Panthers, it came big in the form of a 24-yard pass from Nick Arbuckle to Taz Bateman to cut the 49ers’ lead to only ten with just over nine minutes left in the game.

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Baker, who already had two interceptions in the game, forced another turnover and the Panthers had life late in the game. He recovered a Johnson fumble with just 45 seconds left in the game.

Arbuckle hit Penny Hart with a 53-yard pass to make the score 23-20 with 30 seconds left in the game. However, Lutz couldn’t connect on his third field goal of the game to tie it up and the 49ers pulled off their first win in FBS history.

The game was mostly dominated by defense as Winchester intercepted a pass and returned a fumble for a touchdown for Charlotte. Baker picked off two Johnson passes and recovered a fumble of his to lead the Panthers.

Arbuckle had a great game for the Panthers throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kalif Phillips went for 90 yards for the 49ers.

The 49ers certainly proved that they belong in the FBS and should be able to translate this win into great success in the C-USA this year. Charlotte next plays Presbyterian and the Panthers play at New Mexico State and both games are next Saturday.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports