ATLANTA -- 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.
Johnson completed 19 of 32 passes. Duke caught seven passes for 95 yards, and Kalif Phillips led Charlotte's ground attack with 90 yards.
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.
Arbuckle was 25 of 43 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Bobby Baker set a Georgia State record with three fumble recoveries and tied a school mark with two interceptions.
Wil Lutz kicked a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, the second longest in Georgia State history.