Football

Defense vaults Charlotte 49ers to historic 23-20 win over Georgia State

Georgia State cornerback Chandon Sullivan (10) tackles Charlotte wide receiver T.L. Ford (13) after a reception during the first half of Friday’s game in Atlanta. The 49ers won, 23-30, in their first game as a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, college football’s highest level.
Georgia State cornerback Chandon Sullivan (10) tackles Charlotte wide receiver T.L. Ford (13) after a reception during the first half of Friday’s game in Atlanta. The 49ers won, 23-30, in their first game as a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, college football’s highest level. AP

Terrance Winchester stole a page from Charlotte’s football past on Friday, picking up a fumble on the fourth play of the game and dashing 43 yards for a touchdown that kicked off the 49ers’ historic 23-20 victory over Georgia State.

In the 49ers’ first game as a Football Bowl Subdivision team, it was the defense that made the difference in the Georgia Dome.

Two years ago, in their first-ever game, the 49ers scored on the second play when Mark Hogan intercepted a pass.

This time, Winchester picked up the ball after Nick Cook knocked it out of Georgia State receiver Glenn Smith’s hands.

“I just started running,” Winchester said later. “I couldn’t believe it when I got into the end zone.”

Charlotte recovered two Georgia State fumbles and intercepted a pass in the end zone in the first half. That stopped several Panther drives and helped the 49ers build a 20-3 lead at halftime.

Georgia State made it close at the end, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. But an onside kick with 30 seconds left went out of bounds, and the 49ers ran out the clock.

3 who mattered

Terrance Winchester: 49ers’ junior cornerback scored touchdowns on a recovered fumble, an interception in the end zone, and a key pass break-up in the first half.

Blake Brewer: His three field goals looked like window dressing when Charlotte was up 23-3, but they eventually made the difference. Georgia State kicker Wil Lutz missed one of his three field goal attempts.

Nick Cook: The 49ers’ junior linebacker caused the fumble that Winchester returned for a touchdown, and he recovered another Panther fumble late in the first quarter

Observations

▪  Charlotte quarterback Matt Johnson completed 19 of 32 passes for 244 yards, including a 63-yard scoring toss to Austin Duke. But Johnson also was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.

▪  The memory of Phil Ratliff, the 49ers’ offensive line coach who died last month, was in the minds of the team. After the game, Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert presented the game ball to Ratliff’s daughter, Haley.

▪  Lambert said after the game that the offense’s five turnovers troubled him. The 49ers made two of the mistakes in the red zone, costing them the chance to put the game out of reach early.

▪  Charlotte running back Kalif Phillips carried 19 times for 90 yards. Teammate Andrew Buie, a transfer from West Virginia, had 68 yards on 16 rushes.

Worth mentioning

▪  Before going to the locker room, the 49ers walked to the stands and celebrated with about 2,000 Charlotte fans who traveled to the game.

▪  Charlotte’s victory marked the first time the team played on a Friday, in a domed stadium and on national television. The game was carried by ESPNU.

▪  There was a familiar name on the Georgia State coaching staff – offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, who coached Boston College to ACC championship game appearances in 2008 and 2009. He lost his job in Boston after interviewing for the New York Jets’ head coaching position.

▪  Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose was among the first to hug Lambert after the game on the field. With tears welling in her eyes, she said, “This is so exciting.”

They said it

“This was huge for our program. We still have room to grow, but our defense really did the job. They came out and took control.” – Charlotte 49ers head coach Brad Lambert.

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