Matt Johnson threw for 242 yards and a touchdown to help Charlotte beat Georgia State 23-20 in the 49ers’ FBS debut Friday at the Georgia Dome.
Charlotte is in the first season of a two-year FBS transition. The Conference USA school will gain full FBS member status with bowl eligibility in 2016. Georgia State started the same process in 2013.
Terrance Winchester returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown on Georgia State’s fourth play from scrimmage, and Blake Brewer added two field goals to give Charlotte a 13-0 lead. Late in the second quarter, Johnson connected with Austin Duke for a 63-yard touchdown pass and a 20-3 lead.
Georgia State rallied in the fourth. Nick Arbuckle threw a 24-yard scoring pass to Taz Bateman to cut it to 23-13. Arbuckle found Penny Hart for a 53-yard touchdown strike with 30 seconds left, but the Panthers’ onside kick went out of bounds.