A record-setting 19,151 people showed up in Jerry Richardson Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8 to watch the Charlotte 49ers take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers. The attendance beat the Niners’ week one opening attendance in 2017 by 500 people.
The 49ers held their ground in the first quarter, holding the Mountaineers to a field goal in the opening drive. Charlotte would punt on their ensuing possession, but would also hold App State to a three and out, forcing them to punt as well. It was just a 10-0 deficit after the first quarter and the Niners were still in it.
In the second quarter, the Niners would bring the ball down to the App State seven-yard line, but quarterback Hasaan Klugh would be tackled four yards behind the line of scrimmage for a loss before the starting quarterback, Chris Reynolds, would be sacked on the App State 22-yard line. An intentional grounding penalty would also be enforced on the play, pushing the Niners’ offense back to the 32-yard line. The team would end up settling for a 46-yard field goal two plays later, and would score on two more field goals in the ensuing drives, while App scored two additional touchdowns to go into halftime 24-9.
It was downhill from there and when it was all said and done, Charlotte’s MVP of the night, were one awarded, would likely go to kicker Jonathan Cruz. Cruz was three for three in field goals for the night, including a 54-yard field goal which was the longest in the past two years, second longest in school history. With three field goals and the longest field goal by a freshman at Charlotte ever, Cruz was a shining light for the Niners.
The offense racked up a total of 203 yards and two turnovers, a far cry from last week’s 488 total yards against Fordham, with Reynolds going 12 for 22 for 108-yards and a touchdown.
Reynolds almost ended up with multiple interceptions against Appalachian State, however they were both called back, including one due to a penalty.
On the ground, running backs Benny LeMay and Aaron McAllister would combine for 65 yards on 14 carries, a sizable 4.6 yards per carry. Secondary quarterback Hasaan Klugh would notably rush the ball 10 times for 23 yards and an additional five more players would rush the ball in the game 19 more times, with a combined seven yards total on just .36 yards per carry, bringing the grand total on the ground for the team to 2.2 yards per carry.
The 49ers’ leading receiver of the night was Workpeh Kofa, who made two receptions for 35 yards. The majority of his yardage stemmed from a 28-yard reception. Redshirt freshman Victor Tucker would also make four receptions for 33 yards.
On defense, the Niners would struggle to contain the Mountaineers. Opposing quarterback Zac Thomas would go an astounding 14 for 14 for 295 yards and three touchdowns, as well as an additional rushing touchdown. App State averaged 4 yards per carry on 139 yards against the 49er defense, often running off the edge and at Charlotte defensive ends at ease.
The 49ers would be able to get into the backfield six times to make a tackle for a loss but would ultimately fail to hound the opposing quarterback, only sacking him once. On a positive note, safety Ben DeLuca would lead the defense in tackles with 11, bringing his career total to 187 with the 49ers. During the game, he moved into second place in all-time tackles with the team and his fifth career fumble recovery tied the school record.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the home team began to look spent and the Mountaineers would begin to take it away. After both teams punted their first possession of the second half, Charlotte would punt for a second time with 2:57 to go in the third. This time, punt returner Thomas Hennigan would find a hole up the middle and return it 59 yards for a touchdown.
In the next possession, App would score another touchdown to make it 38-9, this time from 90-yards out on a catch and a run over the middle. On the next home possession, App State defensive back Desmond Franklin would intercept Reynolds and return it 46 yards to the Charlotte one-yard line where Reynolds would cause him to fumble. The ball would roll out of the side of the end zone and be called a touchback, giving the ball back to the Charlotte offense.
The Mountaineers would score once more in their 45-9 routing of the 49ers.
Altogether and despite the result, it was a good effort for a team that is still working, against a talented opponent. After App State took the No. 13 team in the nation, Penn State, into overtime last week, Charlotte was understandably the expected underdog. However, were the team able to keep up their first half momentum, it’s a plausible question to ask if the score should have at least been a little closer.