It was a cloudy and chilly afternoon at Jerry Richardson Stadium when the Charlotte 49ers football team (4-4, 3-2 C-USA) faced off against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (3-4, 2-2 C-USA). The loyal Charlotte fans were treated to a convincing win at 20-17.
The 49ers were returning from a hard-fought loss (13-21) at Middle Tennessee. The 49ers came into the game hoping to improve their record to the .500 mark on the season.
Charlotte came out strong with intensity. On their first drive, they scored when redshirt senior, Hasaan Klugh, sprinted over the right side with a convoy of blockers for a five-yard touchdown. The extra point was made by freshman kicker, Jonathan Cruz. The Golden Eagles were not able to respond to the 49ers defense and were forced to punt.
The 49ers with their smothering defense led by linebacker Juwan Foggie dominated the quarter. Foggie, a redshirt senior, had two interceptions including a pick-six that he returned for a 79-yard touchdown followed by the extra point from Cruz. The 49ers’ were pumped up with Foggie’s end of the quarter theft because it gave the linebacker his fifth interception and tied him with the most in the nation.
“When guys like Juwan Foggie get a pick-six…I went out there and hit like three or four of my teammates,” said Jeff Gemmell, redshirt junior linebacker.
In the second quarter, both teams came out with an increased intensity in their defensive play. The strong defensive play from both teams resulted with no points scored in the second quarter. It was during this second quarter that Foggie created his sixth turnover and became the new interception leader in the nation. Foggie made a diving catch for the interception toward the end of the second quarter to abruptly end the Golden Eagles scoring threat on the 49ers 20-yard line. The strong defensive play was contagious when Charlotte defensive back DJ Anderson secured a turnover to keep the Golden Eagles scoreless. Anderson, redshirt Junior, snatched an interception from the Golden Eagles quarterback in the end zone.
At the end of the first half, the score sat at Charlotte 14, Southern Mississippi 0. Charlotte went into halftime with strong momentum.
In the opening drive of the second half, Charlotte marched up the field to set up a 40-yard field goal by Cruz. Southern Mississippi tried to gain momentum with a drive, but the 49ers’ relentless defense limited the Golden Eagles to only a field goal. The score was 17-3, Charlotte.
Early in the fourth quarter, Southern Mississippi scored a touchdown with an extra point. Charlotte responded by marching upfield with a methodical rushing attack, which protected their lead by running down the play clock. The strategy paid off when Jonathan Cruz connected for another field goal.
The 49ers were up 20-10. The Golden Eagles had a successful drive ending it with a touchdown and capped it off with an extra point. Southern Mississippi attempted an onside kick, but the football went out of bounds. The Niners would get the football on its own 45-yard line and secure another first down. Time runs out, the game’s over and the Charlotte 49ers win.
The final score was Charlotte 49ers 20, Southern Mississippi 17.
The 49ers (4-4) will take their .500 record to Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 3 when they face University of Tennessee (3-5) at Neyland Stadium.