College Sports

Why Charlotte 49ers coach believes a football rivalry is brewing with Georgia State

Charlotte coach Brad Lambert and the 49ers will play host to Georgia State on Saturday at Richardson Stadium.
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert and the 49ers will play host to Georgia State on Saturday at Richardson Stadium. WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM

It isn’t exactly Auburn-Alabama or Michigan-Ohio State, but Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert said he’d like to see his teams’ meetings with Georgia State turn into a rivalry.

“I think this is a game that should be played,” said Lambert, whose 0-3 squad entertains Georgia State (0-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Richardson Stadium.

“It’s Charlotte versus Atlanta, the I-85 connection,” Lambert said. “It just seems like it’s a good series for both schools.”

Georgia State has a special place in 49ers football history. Charlotte’s first game as an FBS school was a 23-20 victory over Georgia State in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 4, 2015.

Lambert says Saturday’s game is the second half of a home-and-home series between the schools, but the 49ers and Panthers will meet again.

“We’ll start another four-game series in a few years,” he said. “I’m glad we’re playing each other.”

Those four games will be from 2020 through 2023.

Both coaches describe Saturday’s game as a contest between teams hungry for a win. Georgia State is coming off a 56-0 loss Saturday at No. 5 Penn State, while Charlotte will try to bounce back from Saturday’s 35-31 home loss to N.C. A&T.

“You’ve got two very hungry, ticked-off football teams that are trying to win,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said.

“There’s no question about it,” Lambert said, when asked if his team needs a win badly. “We were right there last week. We came close. It’s a rough locker room after a game like last Saturday.”

Both teams have been hurt by turnovers. Georgia State had five turnovers against the Nittany Lions and have nine for the season. Charlotte hashad an interception returned for a touchdown in all three games, and the interception Saturday sealed the victory for N.C. A&T.

“You can’t turn the ball over four or five times a game and expect to win,” Elliott said.

Lambert said Georgia State “moved the ball pretty well” against Penn State. “They just got hurt by the turnovers and some big plays.”


Charlotte connection: There are three players from Charlotte on Georgia State’s roster, and all of them are likely to see action Saturday. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jonathan Ifedi (Vance High), freshman linebacker Trajan Stephens-McQueen (West Mecklenburg) and sophomore cornerback Cedric Stone (Independence) are all listed No. 2 on the depth chart at their positions. Ifedi is the older brother of Kingsley Ifedi, Vance’s standout quarterback last season who is now at East Carolina.

Career high: Benny LeMay (Butler High) rushed for 158 yards against N.C. A&T, but he wasn’t the only 49er setting a career best. Workpeh Kofa (Independence High) had a career-high 110 receiving yards, and quarterback Hasaan Klugh’s three touchdown passes marked a single-game best for him.

Unexpected open date: Georgia State has a sudden vacancy on its schedule next week, after Memphis canceled its Sept. 30 game with the Panthers. Memphis made the move - which will cost the school $11 million because of the broken contract - because the American Athletic Conference had to shuffle the schedules of seven schools. That shuffle was the result of postponements involving South Florida and Central Florida because of Hurricane Irma.

Memphis is now scheduled to face Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 30. Memphis officials have promised to play Georgia State in 2023, according to published reports.