Charlotte 49ers (1-5) vs ECU Pirates (1-5)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 21, 2:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN+ (Play-By-Play: James Westling/Analyst: Leger Douzabl)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sport Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/ Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
Spread: ECU -6.5, Over/Under 40.5
Series Record: First Meeting
Setting The Stage
This matchup marks the first-ever meeting for these two football programs. Both teams have clamored for an in-state conference rival, and it’s now possible due to Charlotte’s move to the AAC. The Pirates and Niners sit at 1-5 this season, looking to use this game as a springboard for the last halves of their schedule.
Charlotte’s Week 7 loss to Navy was nothing short of disappointing. The Niners were shut out for the first time since 2017, leaving many questioning how they will compete in this conference.
Charlotte’s QB carousel is one of the main areas of concern. Trexler Ivey was named as the starting quarterback last week, after taking approximately 98% of first-team reps in practice.
Jalon Jones lined up at wide receiver on Charlotte’s opening drive, only to see the field a handful of times for the remainder of the game. Charlotte Head Coach Biff Poggi knows the Niners must incorporate Jalon into their offense more, saying “When we decided we were going with Trexler at quarterback, I thought we can’t sit down Jones. He’s the biggest offensive threat we have, so where can we play him? Offensively, we don’t have an eraser…but [Jalon] is as close to one as we have. I think we have to reexamine how we use him.”
The Niners’ defense has remained the bright spot of this team, despite their struggles on offense. Midway through the season, Charlotte’s defense has climbed over 50 spots in team defense and has improved in multiple other areas from 2022 to 2023. Charlotte has already matched last season’s games of 6.0+ TFLs with 4, including doubling the number of 3.0+ sacks games from four to two. The Niners have a stout defensive line, that excels at bursting through the backfield and putting consistent pressure on the quarterback.
ECU quarterback Alex Flinn has thrown 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions this season. Charlotte’s game plan will center around throwing multiple blitz packages and stunts at the junior quarterback, in hopes of creating turnovers for short-field scoring opportunities.
The injuries are mounting for the Niners, with true freshman and star running back Durell Robinson being listed as out for the season. Offensive lineman Kendall Stanley is also out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury. A big loss on the offensive line does not bode well for the Niners, but they must string together drives on offense in order to steal a win on the road.
ECU has started the season 1-5, looking to snap their two-game losing streak on Saturday. The Pirates saw a quarterback switch last game, replacing Alex Flinn with Mason Garcia. Junior quarterback Alex Flinn struggled last game, completing 6 of his 13 passes with an average of 2.9 yards and one interception. Sophomore quarterback Mason Garcia entered the game, finishing 12 for 26 on completions, with an average of 6.0 yards per throw and zero touchdowns. ECU is averaging 20.5 points this season, but their defense is giving up an average of 26.5 points.
ECU’s defense will have an opportunity to put pressure on the Charlotte quarterbacks. The Niners rank second to last in the AAC in sacks allowed, with 32 (loss of 190 yards). If the Pirates can put Charlotte in tough down-and-distance situations, they’ll be able to prevent the Niners from scoring consistently. On the other hand, the Pirates rank last in the AAC in sacks, with a total of 5 through 6 games.
This season is Year Five for ECU Head Coach Mike Houston. The Pirates have not gotten off to the start they envisioned and this matchup against Charlotte will be a true litmus test for where this team stands now, and in the future.
Both the Pirates and Niners are not known for having “high-powered” offenses. This game will come down to which team can make enough splash plays to outscore the other. Charlotte’s defensive line is among the best in the conference, but the Niners’ offense will have to match their productivity. Charlotte will be heading into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the first game of this potential in-state conference rival, giving the Pirates a small advantage with home field.
Final Score: Charlotte 14, ECU 17