Saturday, September 2, 2023

Charlotte Wins in Biff Poggi's Debut

 CHARLOTTE – The beginning of the Biff Poggi era at Charlotte began with a victory as the 49ers outpaced the South Carolina State Bulldogs 24-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 15,622 Saturday night at Jerry Richardson Stadium. On a night where both teams’ defenses played to their strengths, the 49ers defense reigned supreme, holding the Bulldogs to 168 total yards.

Going into the season, Poggi’s stated goals were to dominate the line of scrimmage so the 49ers run game would set the tone. Although it took a few drives to work out the kinks, the 49ers were finally able to push their way down the field for their first score of the game. A one-yard Jalon Jones keeper capped off a sixty-eight-yard drive with each yard coming on the ground. Charlotte’s running game kept the momentum going on their next drive. Freshman Durell Robinson showed flashes of what made him such a highly sought-after recruit out of high school. With lightning-quick cuts behind the line of scrimmage, Robinson racked up seventy-one yards over two drives and scored the first of what fans hope will be many touchdowns for the green and gold. Kyle Cunanan’s forty-five-yard field goal gave the 49ers a two-touchdown lead going into the half.

South Carolina State had their first sustained drive of the evening midway through the third quarter. As the Bulldogs faced a fourth down inside the two-yard line, the 49ers defense lived up to their “Bad Company” moniker and held South Carolina State out of the end zone. After punting it back to the Bulldogs, the 49ers defense again held on fourth down, turning South Carolina State over on downs for the second straight drive. The Charlotte offense saw itself facing a fourth down on its next drive, but a quarterback sneak kept the chains moving. Facing another fourth down a few plays later, the 49ers opted to attempt a field goal, but the kick sailed wide.

Charlotte’s first passing touchdown of the season came on some impressive improvisation by quarterback Jalon Jones, who scrambled and tossed a quick pass to tight end Bryce Kennon, who raced thirty-six yards down the home sideline to hit paydirt. The big play ignited the Charlotte sideline, and the defense came out blazing on the next drive. Freshman defensive back Kameron Howard stepped in front of a South Carolina State pass, picked it off and raced to the Bulldog twenty-two-yard line.

Jalon Jones was 13 of 19 for 125 yards and a touchdown through the air with sixty-three yards and a touchdown on the ground. Durell Robinson led a balanced 49ers rushing attack with seventy-four yards and a touchdown. Terron Kellman and Shadrick Byrd also saw time at running back and combined for ninety-two yards rushing.

Wayne Jones led the defensive effort with ten tackles (five solo) with Demetrius Knight and Nikhai Hill-Green each tallying seven tackles to guide the strong defensive effort. Prince Bemah, and Eyabi Okie-Anoma each had a sack, and Michael Kelly and Demon Clowney shared a sack. Kameron Howard had the team’s lone turnover, a fourth-quarter interception.

Charlotte (1-0) travels to College Park next Saturday to take on Maryland from the Big Ten. The game will be broadcast on NBC, marking the first time the 49ers will have played on a national, over-the-air broadcast network.