On Saturday, Sep. 18, the Charlotte 49er football team traveled to Atlanta and took on the Georgia State Panthers at Center Parc Stadium, losing 9-20. This was the Niners' first loss, moving them to 2-1 on the season, while this was also the first win of the year for the Panthers to 1-2.
"Missed an opportunity. Humbled, frustrated, but not deterred. The response for what happened tonight is going to be the most important part," said Head coach Will Healy after the game." "Credit to them for making it hard on us."
This was Charlotte's first challenge on the road, and it looked like the team missed the home crowd's energy in the first two games of the season.
"You get thrown adversity. That's when you show your true character. It's easy to be happy go lucky whenever you are winning. But now let's see your real character when you're in the loss column," said quarterback Chris Reynolds.
The first quarter of the game was a more defensive battle, with both teams having two drives that all ended in punts.
Georgia State opened up the second quarter with a 13-yard run and looked like they might have figured it out. But on the next play, Panthers running back Destin Coates had a breakaway run with nobody between him and the end zone. But Charlotte's defensive back Jon Alexander was able to chase him down and force a fumble after he ran for 64 yards getting the Niners possession.
That fumble opened up a touchdown drive for the Niners that featured back-to-back fourth-down conversions. That ended with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Chris Reynolds to Elijah Spencer, getting the Niners on the board first leading 7-0.
A few drives later, Georgia State answered back on a two-play 68-yard drive. That started with a 33-yard pass from the Panthers' Darren Grainger to Ja'Cyais Credle. They scored on the next play with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Grainger to Jamari Thrash. Tying the game 7-7 with four minutes left in the half.
After a four-minute scoreless possession from the 49ers, the Panthers on the offensive side had bad luck with the ball getting snapped past the quarterback, where he had to run into the end zone to recover the ball. The 49ers were credited with the safety, giving them a 9-7 advantage.
The next drive becomes the turning point.
Charlotte got to 4th and 1 and called a rushing play that ran to the side and was stopped instead of calling a play where you are moving forward the whole time.
After the turnover on downs, the Panthers marched for 66 yards scoring on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Grainger to Credle. But when kicking the extra point, Charlotte could block to keep the score to 13-9.
The Niners on the next drive drove down the field for 63 yards in five minutes, but a costly fumble forced by Georgia State's Blake Carrol changed possession. The third quarter ended with the Panthers having possession leading 13-9.
The Panthers opened up the fourth quarter driving down the field and were getting ready to put the Niners away. Still, Alexander came up big again, getting another takeaway with an interception.
Charlotte's offense couldn't get points on the board on their next drive.
Georgia State capitalized on this with a 13 play 92-yard touchdown drive that lasted for seven and a half minutes. The Panthers scored on a 13-yard touchdown run by Jamyest Williams, taking a 20-9 lead.
Charlotte couldn't answer back and fell 20-9 after turning the ball over on downs.
'The Panther's offensive game plan was executed flawlessly.'
The Niners this season have had issues stopping the run, so Georgia State focused on running the ball early, forcing the Niners to sell out against the run, which opened up the passing game for the Panthers. Nineteen of Georgia State's first 24 plays were running plays which was why the next drive after that, they were able to score on two 30+ yard passing plays.
"We thought one of the keys to the game was gonna be stopping the run," said Healy. "The one-on-one 50/50 balls were just as important. We gotta make some plays on the ball in the air."
'Jon Alexander and Markees Watts shine for the defense.'
Alexander was all over the field on defense for the Niners, with the chase down forced fumble and the interception preventing two touchdown drives for the Panthers. Watts had a huge sack on the opening drive which forced the Panthers to punt. Alexander had six total tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. Watts had 13 tackles and one sack, which resulted in a loss of four yards.
"We've been tested, we've had some highs, we've had some lows. Unfortunately, tonight is one of the lows. But I think we will find out a lot about this football team by how we respond," said Healy.
Charlotte comes back to Jerry Richardson Stadium to host Middle Tennessee on Friday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. that game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.