49ers put up fight but lose at The Swamp, dropping 22-7 decision to No. 25 Florida

Charlotte coach Biff Poggi talks with an official during the 49ers’ 22-7 loss Saturday to No. 25 Florida in Gainesville. (John Raoux / AP Photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ricky Pearsall made a one-handed catch that will be hard to top this season, Trey Smack kicked five field goals and No. 25 Florida overcame a lackluster performance to beat Charlotte 22-7 on Saturday night.

The Gators (3-1) won their third consecutive game since losing at then-No. 14 Utah, but they looked far from ready to go on the road and end a two-game skid to Kentucky next week.

Graham Mertz completed 20 of 23 passes for 259 yards, with a touchdown and a fumble. Pearsall finished with six receptions for 104 yards, none better than his leaping snag down the seam that led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

But the Gators delivered few highlights the rest of the night. A week after a 20-point second quarter against Tennessee, the Gators managed 18 yards — including minus-1 rushing — in the second against one of the worst defenses in major college football.

The 49ers (1-3) allowed nearly 1,100 yards in back-to-back lopsided losses to Maryland and Georgia State. Coach Biff Poggi promised better production and had Florida out of sorts for much of the night.

After scoring on their first four possessions, the Gators went punt, field goal, turnover on downs, punt and field goal. It was far from what anyone expected from a team that was a 27 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Florida finished with 395 yards, but its defense was stout all game and allowed just 10 first downs and 210 yards.

Jalon Jones, who originally signed with Florida in 2019, led Charlotte with 65 yards rushing and a touchdown. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 111 yards.

The 49ers received $1.55 million to make the trip south. It’s a significant payday that will help fund the entire athletic program. Athletic director Mike Hill, who spent nearly 25 years at Florida, set up the game and treated it a little like a homecoming.

Charlotte plays at SMU next Saturday in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams.