Charlotte 49ers (American Athletic Conference) vs Maryland Terrapins (BIG 10 Conference)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 9, 7:30 PM EST
TV: NBC (Play-By-Play: Noah Eagle/Analyst: Kathryn Tappen)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sport Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/ Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: College Park, Maryland
Spread: Maryland -24.5 O/U: 51.5
All-Time Series Record: Maryland W 1-0, 56-21 at Charlotte 9/10/22
Setting The Stage
The New Look 49ers look to build on their Week 1 victory, as they travel to College Park to face an offensive powerhouse led by Taulia Tagovailoa. There’s an added sense of motivation for the Niners, with Head Coach Biff Poggi and many players having roots in Maryland. This will be Charlotte’s first game aired on an original three-network (NBC) in school history.
The Niners’ identity starts with the run. Head Coach Biff Poggi has made his team’s plans abundantly clear.
“We are going to zig while everyone else in the AAC zags with a pass-heavy offense,” Poggi said this week.
Charlotte doubled South Carolina State in running game differential, finishing the game with 220 yards on the ground (4.7 yards/carry). Although the Niners won the game in the trenches, the offense sputtered early, netting only 17 yards in the first quarter.
Offensive Lineman Kevin Williams on Charlotte’s slow start:
“Part of it also was that it was our first game together. We were able to mesh and get our feet wet in Week One, and I think it will definitely help us going into Week Two. All of those first game jitters are gone.”
Charlotte will aim to wear the Maryland defense down by incrementally moving the ball down-field and controlling the time of possession. True freshman running back Durell Robinson will be an X-factor for the Niners, as he looks to build off his impressive performance in Week 1. In a perfect world, Coach Poggi would like to see his team win in low-scoring affairs…this will not be the case for the Terrapins.
Associate Head Coach Kyle Devan on Maryland’s style of play:
“In this conference, there is a lot of the air-raid/spread/tempo gameplay…they want to get as many shots on goals. They want to run upwards of 85-95 plays a game. If we control the time of possession, we’re going to limit them down to 60-65 plays. Teams that are in the air raid exhaust the defense as time goes on…they’re banking on the [players] being tired.”
Charlotte’s defense showed out in Week 1. The Niners only allowed three points in the season opener, making it the fewest allowed since giving up six points to Old Dominion in 2017. Charlotte’s revamped defense proved to be the bright spot of the team during fall camp, translating their stellar performances to the field last Saturday.
Defensive Coordinator Ryan Osborn will deploy different packages and looks to keep Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa on his heels. Charlotte has considerable depth on the defensive line, with Eyabi Okie Anoma, Nikhai Hill-Green, Demon Clowney, and DL Stone Handy (making his debut for the Niners on Saturday). The Niners will need to capitalize on the “Gotta Have It” Plays, a phrase coined by Coach Osborn. Turnovers and punts will be crucial for the Niners, and the offense must convert if/when they get the ball back.
The Niners’ second-quarter rushing explosion helped Jalon Jones tremendously. The transfer quarterback takes pride in being a dual-threat weapon, finishing last week’s game with 49 yards rushing and one touchdown. Jalon’s biggest responsibility will be taking care of the ball and limiting three-and-out drives. Coach Poggi was pleased with Jones’ Week 1 performance but knows that it was far from a perfect game…saying, “Obviously having a running quarterback who can throw and run is very difficult to defend. He played well tonight, but he has to stay within the offense and not throw those two throws. That will get him sitting next to me on the sideline”.
Charlotte has six transfers from Maryland and 28 players who played at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. Although it will be familiar territory for many players, the message remains the same.
Associate HC Kyle Devan on the team’s mindset:
“It will be exciting, let’s not beat around the bush. But the bigger the game, the bigger the stakes. You have to bring it back down to the process throughout the week.”
Maryland opened its season with a 38-6 victory over Towson. The Terrapins seemed to pick up right where they left off, having one of the best passing attacks in the nation.
Maryland’s offense is led by senior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. In last year’s matchup with Charlotte, Taulia went 27-31, 391 yards, and threw 4 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 56-21 victory. Maryland’s offense looks to replicate last year’s performance on Saturday, aiming to tire out the Charlotte defense.
Maryland HC Mike Locksley knows the Niners didn’t reveal much of their game plan in Week 1.
“It looked like they didn’t show a lot. [Charlotte] had 68 snaps on defense. But we expect them to play more split safety than post-safety.”
Locksley went on to acknowledge the many returning faces that will be seen in College Park, specifically Charlotte Offensive Coordinator and former Maryland Assistant Mike Miller.
“There is some familiarity from a personnel standpoint. They have 25-30 guys from Power 5 institutions. We expect a tough, gritty game.”
Although the Terps offense is flashy and high-scoring, Locksley believes the defense is the strong suit of the team. Maryland’s defense has gone three straight games (leading back to last season) without allowing a touchdown. The Terps hang their hat on stifling the run and making stops in the red zone.
One thing is for certain: Maryland has a game plan set for Charlotte quarterback Jalon Jones.
“Charlotte has a really athletic quarterback. We expect to see zone reads and QB runs, it adds an extra blocker for them. QB runs give them a numbers advantage, so we have to be gap-sound and do a good job of getting off blocks and containing [Jalon]” - Mike Locksley
The outcome of this game relies on Charlotte’s ability to run the ball. If the Niners establish a consistent rushing attack early in the game, time of possession could serve as the best defense for the high-powered Maryland offense.
In the end, Charlotte’s offense will not be enough to keep up with the Terrapins’ scoring montage.
Final Score: Maryland 35, Charlotte 17