Entering their third year as a football program, the Charlotte 49ers made the jump from the FCS ranks to the FBS as a Conference USA member. Part of this includes a transitional year in which they are not eligible for any postseason games.
The 49ers have played five game in this inaugural season as a FBS program and hold a 2-3 overall record heading into their first bye week of the season. Now is a great time to break down the 49ers and how they have fared in their first season at the FBS ranks.
First FBS Win: The 49ers took no time in securing their first win as an FBS program in defeating Georgia State 23-20 in the season opener. Matt Johnson threw for 244 yards and a touchdown while Kalif Phillips added 90 yards on the ground in route to 408 overall yards. The only negative was five turnovers, a trend that has continued in all five games.
Kalif Phillips: The junior running back has looked better as the season has progressed with 90 carries for 499 yards and two touchdowns versus much better competition than in 2014. Phillips has rushed for 159 yards versus FAU and 125 yards versus Temple, bringing his overall yards per carry average to 5.5.
Hanging In Tough: Other than the MTSU game, Charlotte has been in the game at the half versus every other opponent. They only trailed Temple 10-3 at the half, before falling 37-3 in the end. It is a huge morale boost for a team that did not exist in 2012 to hang in versus established programs.
Winning Two Games: Count me among the many that projected Charlotte to finish 1-11 with their only win coming versus Presbyterian. They took one game to prove doubters wrong with a 23-20 win over Georgia State. No matter how this season ends, they will be at least one win better than most pundits expected.
Defense: The 49ers are playing well on defense in giving up only 333.8 yards per game on the season. Teams are only averaging 3.5 yards per carry and 4.8 yards per play versus the Charlotte defense.
First FBS Blowout Loss: An occurrence that is bound to happen at some point for any FBS newbie, the 49ers got that out of the way in game three versus MTSU. The Blue Raiders jumped on Charlotte with touchdowns on six straight drives to jump out to a 42-7 first quarter lead. The 49ers ended up falling 73-14.
Second Half Play: After five games, the 49ers are being outscored 85-20 in the second half. They are able to play well and gain a lead or stay in a game through the first half, but the second half is a completely different story. Most recently, Temple outscored them 27-0 in the second half after leading 10-3 at halftime.
Field Position: The 49ers rank #127 nationally in allowing opponents to start on the 36-yard line. That number is almost seven yards worse than the national average. When teams start at nearly the 40-yard line, it puts significant pressure on the defense.
Turnovers: Through five games, Charlotte has turned the ball over an FBS-leading 21 times. On two occasions, the 49ers have turned the ball over seven times in one game. On one of those occasions, they lost 17-7 to FAU, a game they could have won if not for the series of miscues.
For a team that had never faced a FBS program in program history, albeit two years, the 49ers have not looked as completely overmatched as many people expected. Many of their woes are coming due to turnovers, but Charlotte has looked like a real FBS team at times this season. Despite not seeing them getting another win this season, this has already been a successful inaugural FBS season for Charlotte.