49ers Drop Season-Finale to C-USA East Champs

Charlotte lost its final game of 2017, 31-12, to visiting Florida Atlantic, on Senior Day, Saturday at Jerry Richardson Stadium.  FAU (9-3; 8-0) stayed unbeaten in C-USA play by taking a 10-0 first-quarter lead and padding the lead to 24-6 by halftime.  In the second half, the Owls’ NCAA Top 10 scoring offense was held to just seven points thanks to two forced fumbles and a pair of fourth-down stops, but the 49ers could not close the gap.

FAU struck first in the first quarter on a 46-yard drive on their second possession after a 49ers’ fake punt pass attempt fell incomplete.  Devin “Motor” Singletary scored the first of his two rushing TDs from six yards out to give the Owls the lead.  FAU’s Greg Joseph’s 37-yard field goal made it 10-0 and the 49ers’ own 45-yard field goal attempt drifted wide to keep it 10-0 after the first quarter.

On their first possession in the second quarter QB Jeff Driskell found Kamrin Solomon for a 20-yard touchdown before Charlotte (1-11; 1-7) answered with its first TD of the game.

The 49ers six-play; 76-yard drive was capped by QB Hasaan Klugh‘s 28-yard TD pass to RB Benny LeMay. Klugh’s 10th TD pass of the season matched his total from last year and made it a 17-6 game.

Driskell connected with Willie Wright for a 41-yard backbreaker with one minute left in the half to extend the Owl’s lead to 24-6 at the half.

Singletary’s second rushing TD of the game opened the second half to push FAU ahead 31-6.  Later in the third quarter, after So. S Ben DeLuca forced his second fumble of the game, Klugh’s six-yard touchdown run made it 31-12 after the 49ers missed the two-point conversion.  Klugh led the 49ers with nine rushing TDs, this season.

Charlotte held FAU twice on downs, but failed to score its third TD of the game after an 11-play; 76-yard drive ended on an incomplete pass on fourth and three from the FAU four-yard line.

“They are a really good football team,” 49ers head coach Brad Lambert said of FAU.  “I thought our guys came out in the second half and fought extremely hard.  The game really came down to third down.  We weren’t very good on defense on third down in the first half and we weren’t good on third and fourth down on the offensive side of the ball.”

Charlotte had 255 yards of total offense, including 171 yards through the air. Klugh was 10-of-21 for 171 yards and one TD.  Senior TL Ford II led the 49ers with 50 receiving yards while he (44 yards), LeMay (28-yard TD) and senior Trent Bostick (27 yards) all caught a pass of over 25 yards.
LeMay led the 49ers ground game with 45 rushing yards while Klugh had the lone rushing TD.

Defensively, DeLuca led the 49ers with 16 tackles for his fifth game this year with double-digit takedowns.  His five forced fumbles this year lead Conference USA and establish a new 49ers single-season record.  Quinton Jordan had a career-high 15 tackles, including 2.0 TFL and LB Jeff Gemmellhad 13 tackles and 1.5 TFL.  Itvwas Gemmell’s school-record sixth straight game with double-digit tackles.  Gemmell (106) and DeLuca (102) became the second and third 49ers in school history to surpass 100 tackles in a season and finish the year ranked second and third behind all-time record-holder Nick Cook (108, 2016).

Four different 49ers had double-digit tackles: DeLuca, 16; Jordan, 15, Gemmell, 13 and Anthony Butler, 11.

Arthur Hart had a school-record 48.6 yard punt average in the game, including two punts of 50 or more yards.  It was his school record eight straight game with a punt of at least 50+ yards and he leads C-USA with a school-record 22 such punts this season.

Driskell was 18-of-22 passing for 245 yards and two TDs.  Wright topped the receivers with 103 receiving yards.  Singletary had 108 rushing yards and two TDs.  He has scored 27 TD this season (26 rushing).

The 49ers head into the offseason after today’s season finale.   As C-USA East Division Champs, FAU faces North Texas, next week in the C-USA Championship game.

“It’s not the record we wanted.  We had some opportunities to win some other games,” Lambert said.  “It’s obviously not where we want to be.  We have to look at what we are doing offensively and defensively.  We have to move forward, get better and win games.”