Charlotte sputters in 41-25 home loss to Georgia State

Charlotte coach Biff Poggi (Daniel Kucin Jr. / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — A quarterback change wasn’t enough to boost Charlotte on Saturday night. 

Georgia State quarterback Darren Grainger accounted for four touchdowns and 484 of his team’s 564 total yards while running back Marcus Carroll added a score of his own as the Panthers (3-0) rolled to a 41-25 win over the 49ers (1-2) at Richardson Stadium.

While its offense vaulted Georgia State to 17-0 lead a few minutes into the second quarter, Charlotte struggled to establish its identity even after redshirt sophomore Trexler Ivey took over at quarterback for a benched Jalon Jones after one drive. 

After winning the first game of the Biff Poggi era, the Niners have suffered an 18-point loss at Maryland and 16-point home loss to the Panthers. 

“I thought tonight would go better than it did,” Poggi said after the game. “I don’t like the fact that (Ivey) took four sacks in critical positions. He should know better than that, and it was a huge amount of negative yards. Right now, he makes better reads than (Jones) but we’re much more dynamic with (Jones) in the game. He can do things with his legs, so I really don’t know. I’m going to have to look at the film.”

Poggi admitted he’ll be evaluating both his players and staff following a loss that he described as inexcusable.

“I wasn’t pleased with the offense today, and I don’t know if I’m going to make changes in the offense as far as the staff goes,” he said. “I’m certainly going to look at it hard over the next few days because I don’t like what we’re doing. I don’t like that we’ve morphed away from what I said we were going to be: a downhill-running, gap-scheme, play-action pass team.”

Trailing by 17 points, the Niners climbed back into contention with a field goal from Kyle Cunanan and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ivey to wide receiver Jack Hestera shortly before halftime.

Ivey completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 257 yards, a touchdown and one interception, and Hestera racked up a team-high 109 yards from seven catches in the game.

The Panthers added a late first half field goal and then jumped to a 34-10 lead in the third quarter before the Niners used a 58-yard touchdown run from Jones and a 54-yard punt return score from Henry Rutledge to again climb back into the game. 

But Grainger’s fourth touchdown of the night gave the Panthers a 41-25 and held up for the final 13 minutes. Georgia State wideout Robert Lewis finished with 220 yards and two touchdowns from just six catches.

The Niners mustered only 88 yards on 29 carries against the Panthers. Running back Durell Robinson managed only 14 yards on eight rushing attempts. 

Jones rushed for 80 yards but completed just 3 of 7 passes for 11 yards. 

All of it left Poggi pondering his team’s game plan.

“I’d rather go back to where everybody in the world knows what we’re going to run on offense and defense but we can execute it instead of trying to get too cute with so many shifts and motions and disguises on defense,” the coach said. 

The Niners travel to Florida next week for a matchup with the 2-1 Gators, who just knocked off 11th-ranked Tennessee.