Saturday, September 24, 2022

Turnovers Doom Charlotte in 56-20 Loss to South Carolina

COLUMBIA – Coming off an emotional first win of the season, the Charlotte 49ers were riding high and looking for an upset over the Southeastern Conference’s South Carolina Gamecocks. For one half, it all appeared possible. After matching the Gamecocks drive for drive to start the game, the Charlotte 49ers self-imploded in the third quarter, throwing interceptions on three straight drives, and allowing South Carolina to cruise to a 56-20 win in front of a sellout crowd of 77,982 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

South Carolina took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field with MarShawn Lloyd toting the rock for the home team. The Charlotte defense stepped up when it counted, forcing the Gamecocks to settle for a short, Mitch Jeter field goal. Charlotte’s first drive was a bit more successful. Super senior Chris Reynolds was 7 of 10 for sixty-seven yards on the opening offensive before finding tight end Jake Clemons in the back of the end zone to give the Forty-Niners a first-quarter lead, 7-3.

Lloyd and the Gamecocks opened the second quarter with a bang and a play that will show on highlight reels throughout the season. The redshirt sophomore, who played his high school ball at national power Dematha Catholic, hurdled a 49ers defender on his way to a twenty-five-yard score to give the home team the lead less than ten seconds into the quarter. Just like they had the first time, Chris Reynolds and the Charlotte defense marched right back down the field. Reynolds completed seven passes to four different receivers on the drive, with Victor Tucker hauling in the final pass of the drive under the south goalpost to help the 49ers retake the lead.

Christian Beal-Smith, a former East Forsyth and Wake Forest standout who transferred to South Carolina in the spring, helped the Gamecocks retake the lead when he dove over top of a pile of players on a fourth down from one yard out. A second Jeter field goal extended the lead to six going into the half. It was the first of two scores for the graduate transfer.

For as great as it seemed the first half went for Charlotte, the second half was anything but. Starting with a three-and-out took away any chance at momentum to start the third quarter, but it was a string of interceptions on three straight drives that truly put the nail in the coffin of the Forty-Niners’ chances. The three turnovers, along with the two punts that sandwiched them, led to twenty-nine unanswered points and a commanding lead for the home team. Charlotte clawed back to get a late touchdown pass from James Foster to Elijah Spencer, but it was too little, too late for an offense that only gained only thirty-four yards in the third quarter.

With the loss, Charlotte fell to 0-3 against the SEC in its decade-long history.

Notable North Carolinians

Christian Beal-Smith (East Forsyth) – the graduate running back rushed for XX yards and two touchdowns.

Chris Reynolds (Davie) – the redshirt senior quarterback threw for two touchdowns in the first half

Next Week

Charlotte (1-4, 0-1) returns home to face UTEP (2-3) in the 49ers’ Conference USA home opener while South Carolina (2-2) takes on in-state FCS foe South Carolina State.