Charlotte slips by Southern Miss in 20-17 victory

Victor Tucker attempting to make a tough catch

By Hunter Bailey. October 27, 2018. CHARLOTTE, NC – Juwan Foggie snagged two interceptions on the day, taking one back for a 79-yard touchdown propelling the 49ers to a 20-17 victory over USM at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

All photographic images credit: Sam Roberts/Freeze Frame

Defense wins championships, and Charlotte forced three turnovers on the day to cover up a shoddy offensive performance and escape with a C-USA victory. Evan Shirreffs got his second start of the season, but couldn’t replicate his performance from his first game in front of the 49er home crowd. Shirreffs threw only 14 aerials, completing 8 for just 78 yards, and an interception. Charlotte’s run-game was utilized heavily, totaling 41 rushing.

Benny LeMay, the league’s second-leading rusher, led the way on the ground for the Niners, bringing home 81 yards on 19 carries.

Charlotte got on the board first, with backup QB Hasaan Klugh faking the jet-sweep, and carrying it in himself from 5 yards out. Head coach Brad Lambert has continued to utilize the senior QB’s running ability throughout the season, and this time they struck gold.

After punting on their first two possessions of the game, the USM offense got rolling, moving the ball to the Charlotte 23-yard line. QB Jack Abraham dropped back and eyed his receiver running a curl route. Charlotte LB Juwan Foggie jumped the route, intercepting Abraham’s errored pass returning it 79-yards to 49er paydirt, pushing the Niner lead to 14-0.

On the next Niner possession, Shirreffs looked to the endzone for freshman WR Victor Tucker, but his pass landed in the arms of USM defender Rachuan Mitchell, the latter’s second interception of the year.

Charlotte received the second half kick, and drove 52 yards in 10 plays, but sacks on consecutive plays forced them to settle for a Jonathon Cruz field goal. Cruz connected from 40 yards out to give the Niners a commanding 17-0 lead in the third quarter.

USM responded with a field goal of their own as Parker Shaunfield connected from 38 yards out, trimming the Niner lead to 17-3. Back to back long drives for the Golden Eagles ended in turnovers. Juwan Foggie intercepted Abraham for the second time on the day, adding to his total of 6 on the year, the most of any player in the FBS. BenDeLuca snagged the final interception on the day on an erratic pass by Abraham as he was being dragged to the ground. DeLuca finished the day with a team high15 tackles (7 solo).

Ben DeLuca (28) brought home 15 tackles in the Charlotte victory

Southern Mississippi started the day with sophomore Jack Abraham at QB, but after taking a hard hit in the third quarter freshman Tate Whatley replaced him. Through three quarters Abraham threw 21-30 for 210 yardsand a season high three interceptions.

Whatley responded to the quick change with a 10 play 79-yard touchdown drive to trim the Niner lead to just 7 points. Whatley connected with De’Michael Harris from 43-yards out on fourth and five with under ten minutesto play.

In just a one possession game, the Shirreffs-led Niners bled the clock for six minutes on a 10-play drive, resulting in a Jonathon Cruz field goal from 39 yards out to extend the lead to 20-10.

Desperation time for the Golden Eagles, down ten with just four minutes remaining, backup QB Tate Whatley was locked in. A 75-yard drive resulting in a touchdown gave the Southern Mississippi sideline life. Whatley threw a jump ball into a congested endzone, and an unlikely bounce ended up in the hands of USM WR Jordan Mitchell, cutting the Niner lead to 20-17 with just one-minute remaining.

Southern Mississippi’s comeback effort fell short as Charlotte recovered the onside kick. With victory formation in place, the Niners improved to 4-4, (3-2 in C-USA).

Whatley’s play in relief of starting QB Abraham was the spark of the Golden Eagle offense, turning what could’ve been a beatdown into a last-minute nail-biter. He finished the day 6-8 for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Charlotte’s LB Juwan Foggie – The senior finished the day with 6 tackles and two game-changing interceptions.

“Coach had the perfect scheme set up, and I just read the quarterbacks eyes and made the play,” Foggie said after the game. “I watch a lot of film throughout the week with my teammates, so that’s really beneficial.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Southern Mississippi (3-4) heads home to take on Marshall (5-2).

Charlotte heads to Knoxville to take on SEC stalwart Tennessee (3-5). The Volunteers are coming off back to back losses to Alabama and South Carolina.

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