Date: Saturday, Sept. 22
Kickoff Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, Massachusetts
Watch it here: Eleven Network (NESNplus in much of New England)/WCCB Charlotte
Hear it here: WEEI 105.5 (Springfield, MA), 730 The Game ESPN Charlotte
Line: UMass -7.5, O/U: 58
Series: First ever meeting
UMass looks to rebound
Home has never looked so warm and inviting for the Minutemen. Following three straight road defeats - none of which were ever close in the second half - the Minutemen look to their familiar McGuirk setting to hit the “restart” button the season.
The biggest question all week has been who will start this weekend as Charlotte comes to town. The UMass Two-Pass attack of Andrew Ford and Ross Comis added a third QB to the mix in their loss to FIU last weekend, in redshirt junior Michael Curtis.
While he did throw two interceptions, he did lead a scoring drive and looked serviceable after Ford and Comis both left the game with injuries.
Both regulars were limited in practice this week, so it is currently an unknown if one or two or even three quarterbacks will split snaps on Saturday.
Receivers Andy Isabella, Brennon Dingle, Sadiq Palmer and Jessie Britt need to gain separation from the 49er secondary and give whomever is slinging the ball open targets.
Defensively, the Minutemen must, must, must, must find a way to fix their rushing defense.
Their ineptness against the run has made them give up 55, 34 and 63 points, respectively. UMass must stop the run and get off the field on third down to give this offense a chance to grow a lead.
Stop the run. To win, they must.
Charlotte hits the road
The 49ers have known nothing but home-cooked meals so far this season. And it has tasted good, going 2-1 including a 28-25 win against Old Dominion last week.
That comes to a change on Saturday when Charlotte travels to Amherst. The 49ers play five of their next seven games on the road, so tough, competitive football is a must to get their confidence raised in a hostile environment.
It also marks the first venture for freshman Chris Reynolds as the visiting quarterback. Reynolds has had a fairly efficient (unspectacular, but has not shown major reasons to doubt his abilities yet) start to his 49er career with a 63.2% completion percentage and three touchdowns and only one interception.
The quarterback must lean on the rest of his squad, which happens to be rich with experience.
Charlotte boasts 17 returning starters from last year. Reynolds need only look in his backfield for help. Junior Benny LeMay and Aaron McAllister have been dependable and productive to take some of the pressure off their QB.
With UMass allowing more than 266 yards per game on the ground (seventh worst against the run in all of FBS land), the 49ers are advised to run early and often to silence the McGuirk crowd.
Defensively, it will be hard to game plan for up to three potential quarterbacks starting. Whomever the Minutemen put under center, the 49ers must key-in on running back Marquis Young and force long second and third passing downs to force UMass into mistakes.
How much currency to place on home vs. away?
That is the real question when weighing one team who has been buried on the road against one team who has not yet been on it thus far.
Charlotte appears to adaptable - proof that they played so focused after their most recent game was moved up by two days thanks to Hurricane Florence. They are also one win ahead of last year’s total, so it already feels like the 49ers are playing with house money.
It’s kitchen sink time for UMass. I think the Minutemen will throw everything at this game plan vs. Charlotte this week to get their offense going early.
I’ll spare you the famous line from Dorothy (something about zero locations like your own), but it’s enough for the Minutemen to get back on track.