GEORGIA STATE PANTHERS (0-1, 0-0 SUN BELT) vs. CHARLOTTE 49ERS (0-1, 0-0 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 26th, 12:00 PM ET
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Fan Capacity: Players’ parents only
Betting Line: Georgia State -2 (O/U: 58)
All-Time Series Record: 1-1
Previous Matchup: Georgia State routed Charlotte 28-0 in the Queen City as the 49ers turned the ball over three times.
GEORGIA STATE OUTLOOK
The Panthers lost a heartbreaker in overtime to No. 19 Louisiana in their season-opener but the team has a lot to build on following a career day for running back Destin Coates.
“Losing hurts, but you do gain confidence. We felt like we played well and could have beaten them. They came out on top,” Panthers’ head coach Shawn Elliot said following the loss against Louisiana. “Their coaching staff and players just made the plays to win, but I don’t think at any point in time that we were overmatched.”
Georgia State dominated the line of scrimmage for the majority of the contest and led 21-7 in the third quarter before the Ragin’ Cajuns rallied to tie the game headed to the fourth.
Replacing Dan Ellington looked to be the tallest task for the Panthers heading to 2020, but the 6’5” redshirt freshman QB Cornelius “Quad” Brown took the reins and brought confidence to the offense’s huddle.
“He can carry us and lead us,” running back Destin Coates said about Brown following his debut. “That’s definitely something we can feed off of throughout the season. We feel comfortable with him back there.”
Brown completed 22 of his 39 passes for 196 yards, a touchdown and an interception, as well as tacking on 15 carries for 64 yards and a score on the ground. The Panthers rushed for 223 total yards and Destin Coates carried the rock 34 times for 150 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive side of the ball forced two turnovers but struggled to get after the quarterback and contain the big play. Shawn Elliot’s unit gave up 13 plays of 15 yards or more and was torched for 519 yards of total offense. The Panthers totaled eight tackles for loss, two sacks, and one quarterback hurry in the loss.
Ramping up the pressure and speeding up the clock in Reynolds’ or Shoffner’s head will be the key to downing the 49ers. Charlotte has a plethora of weapons that can get behind the secondary, so getting to the quarterback and keeping the reads minimal is the key to the first Georgia State victory of the season.
The 49ers are off to a tough start to what has been and will continue to be the weirdest season of college football to date. Charlotte fell 35-20 in a hard-fought game against Appalachian State in the season opener and was just 48 hours from heading to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina before contract tracing depleted the offensive line, forcing the cancellation of the first matchup between the two programs.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds suffered an upper-body injury on the first play of the game against the Mountaineers. Reynolds finished the game, which ended up being his second-worst statistical performance at the collegiate level, completing just 11 of his 30 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions. The junior signal-caller was ruled out of the canceled matchup against North Carolina and was initially given an “indefinite” timetable for return.
Head coach Will Healy updated Reynolds’ status at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Still questionable - I wish I felt better to give you some concrete information, but it’s going to be day to day...I don’t know that I’ve been around a player that is tougher than Chris. He’s a competitor, if you give him an option, he’s going to go play. But we have to watch him at practice and figure out if he can execute at a high enough level for us to have success offensively.”
If I had to guess who will be leading the 49ers’ offense this Saturday, it would be Chris Reynolds. In the case that the Manning award candidate is sidelined, Dom Shoffner, a 6’0”, 209-pound dual-threat from Cary, North Carolina will step in and lead the unit.
Charlotte’s offense was a lot of smoke and mirrors in their first game of the season, and while it looked as if multiple plays were one correct assignment away from success, the 49ers must return to their bread and butter. Feed Tre Harbison - just as they did for years with Benny LeMay, force the defense to respect the run, and then open up the passing attack. Bootlegs, roll-outs, anything to keep Reynolds or Shoffner from getting pressured and hit constantly throughout the game.
Mark Carney stepped into the offensive coordinator and play-caller role following the departure of Alex Atkins, and while it was just one game against a solid team, this unit must be better. The Charlotte offense mustered 13 points against Appalachian State as Harbison scored the offense’s only touchdown in the first quarter. Jonathon Cruz booted two field goals and Aaron McAllister took a kick return to the house to keep the 49ers competitive until late in the fourth quarter.
Special teams were undoubtedly the highlight, and Charlotte must build on that and the three turnovers they forced moving forward. The woes of defending the run look to be back from 2019, and if the offense can’t get rolling, they will have a tough time competing in a conference that looks to be wide open.
I think this team has all the pieces to make a run in C-USA, but defending home field and getting that first win under their belt will do great things for this team’s confidence.
This all hinges on whether Chris Reynolds plays, and if he does, how close to 100% he performs. If Reynolds is in the starting lineup, I think the 49ers will get back on track and Victor Tucker will have a monstrous day. Both defenses gave up 30+ points and 500+ yards in their season-openers. Whoever wins the turnover battle will put themselves in position to secure the first win of the season. The forecast for Saturday is 81 and sunny - a great day for some football. I’m going with Charlotte 31, Georgia State 30.