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FIU gets past Charlotte to keep bowl hopes alive, 48-31

In a matchup of two struggling teams, the Panthers jumped out to a big lead in the second quarter and kept enough distance to send the 49ers to their seventh straight loss.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The FIU Panthers did what they needed to do, while the Charlotte 49ers were again in the way.  The Panthers rolled over the 49ers 48-31, moving them to 5-5 on the year and keeping their dim bowl hopes alive.  Conversely, Charlotte has now lost seven in a row as they continue to struggle on offense.  With no help from the running game on the day, the 49er passing attack did a serviceable job moving the ball and putting points on the board.  In the end though, it just wasn't enough.  Although the played better today, the 49ers are still having a difficult time navigating their way through their first year in FBS. Speaking of technical difficulties, the ASN broadcast went down about two minutes in, putting a halt to replay reviews early on.

Not that it mattered.

The Panthers put together a great all around performance, getting contributions from different players on offense, while the defense completely suffocated Charlotte's ground attack.  The Panthers held Charlotte to 127 rushing yards on the day.  They also added seven sacks, one shy of the program record.

FIU got on the board first when Kenyatta Anderson recovered a blocked punt in the Charlotte end zone to go up 7-0.

To their credit, the 49ers answered, something they haven't done all season long.  QB Lee McNeill finally recorded his first touchdown pass of the season, hitting Austin Dukes for the 29 yard score tie the game at 7.  But that was about it for the Charlotte offense.  FIU QB Alex McGough put the Panthers back on top 14-7 after finding Clinton Taylor for a 15 yard score.

FIU poured it on in the second quarter, scoring three times to put this one out of reach.  Panther RB Alex Gardner scored twice, first on a one yard rush to make it 21-7, then a nine yard rush late in the half to make it 34-7.  In between those scores, McGough found Taylor again, this time for a 24 yard score.  Charlotte added a Blake Brewer 56 yard field goal to close the half trailing 34-10.

Charlotte's Matt Johnson hit Dukes on a 36 yard scoring play to open the third quarter, bringing the score to 34-17.

FIU's Niko Gonzalez made Brooks Barden, Charlotte's third string QB, pay on a 58 yard pick six to stretch the lead, but Barden bounced back with a 15 yard scoring toss to Dukes early in the fourth.  McGough answered with a TD pass of his own to Thomas Owens to make it 48-24.  Barden capped off a 16 play, 87 yard drive with a five yard touchdown run, but the Panthers ran out the clock to win 48-31.


FIU: While their bowl hopes are on life support, the Panthers at least took care of business today.  They needed this win to regain some of the confidence they lost last week against FAU and I think it's safe to say they did that.  The offense did a good job of making plays, especially McGough (27-42 for 284 yards, three touchdowns and an interception), Gardner (79 yards, two touchdown) and Taylor (nine catches, 126 yards, two touchdowns.)  Rolling up 439 yards is not easy for this offense, but they did it.  Combine that with a defense that held Charlotte to 4.5 yards per play, and you get a much needed win.

Charlotte: For one game at least, the QB platoon paid off.  Charlotte played all three quarterbacks on their depth chart, with McNeill, Johnson and Barden each firing touchdown passes on the day.  Dukes, the target on all three scoring plays, had a huge day receiving, finishing with eight catches for 115 yards.  McNeill had easily his best passing performance of the season, finishing 13-22 for 135 yards and a TD.  Although they came up a little short on the scoreboard, the 49ers at least put together an encouraging offensive performance against one of the conference's better defenses.  It won't get any easier for Charlotte the rest of the way out, but they made some progress today.

FIU (5-5) travels to Marshall next week to meet the Herd, while Charlotte (2-7) heads to San Antonio to face UTSA.