Florida Atlantic Owls (3-4) vs Charlotte 49ers (2-5)
Date/Time: Friday, October 27, 7:30 PM ET
TV: ESPN2 (Play-By-Play: Anish Shroff/Analyst: Andre Ware/Sideline: Paul Carcaterra)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sports Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/ Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Spread: FAU -4.5, Over/Under 41
Series Record: CLT Trails 2-6 (0-4 at home)
Setting The Stage
Charlotte’s win last Saturday marked the team’s first AAC conference win in program history. The Niners traveled to ECU, putting together a complete game to take a 1-0 lead in the newest in-state conference rivalry. FAU comes into this game on a one-game losing streak, after falling to UTSA at home 36-10. The Niners hope to get their first multi-game winning streak this season, but the Owls have won the last four matchups, including being 4-0 in Charlotte.
Charlotte played complementary football against ECU for the first time this season. The Niners elected to name Jalon Jones as the starting quarterback for this game, hoping that his dual-threat abilities would add a much-needed second dimension to their lackluster offense. Jalon threw and ran for over 100 yards each, adding a rushing touchdown to the box score as well.
After the game, Coach Poggi stated “Mike Houston told me after the game that he was hoping we weren’t going to play #4 (Jalon)”. Charlotte won the time-of-possession battle, having the ball for 41 minutes, compared to ECU’s 19. The Niners seemed to have found a go-to playing style for this offense, as they look to incorporate more RPOs into their system.
In Tuesday’s presser, Charlotte offensive coordinator Mike Miller said, “Jalon’s a dynamic athlete. Good coaches always find ways to not do what the best scheme is or other experiences we’ve had at other places, but do what your players can do best. That’s what we featured on Saturday…we moved the ball up and down the field. Jalon’s a dynamic athlete and we have to use him that way.”
Although the Niners’ offense showed flashes of brilliance, Charlotte’s defense remains the crowned jewel of this team. Charlotte held ECU to 127 yards of total offense, the fewest allowed in 49ers history. The Ryan Osborn-led defense has also shut out its opponent in the first half of the last two games (ECU and Navy).
Defensive End Eyabi Okie-Anoma relished the opportunity to end the game on the defense’s terms, saying “Put it on our back. We’d rather have it that way, I promise you. We will bite that bullet if we can’t come through, but we will come through. We can’t look each other in the eye and say we messed up.”.
Charlotte’s pass rush will be a key factor in this game. FAU quarterback Daniel Richardson struggled last week against UTSA, giving the Niners a healthy blueprint to use in this matchup. Charlotte’s offense leans heavily on their defense’s ability to string together multiple stops. The Niners must try to take the lead early, settling into their run-heavy game plan, rather than getting flustered by playing from behind.
Charlotte comes into Friday’s matchup with a noticeable rejuvenation, as they look to capture their first home conference win. However, the Owls present many different problems than the Pirates.
The Owls come into this game looking to bounce back after a tough home loss to UTSA. Junior quarterback Daniel Richardson struggled, completing 19/34 of his passes for 142 yards and 2 interceptions. UTSA’s defense forced the Owls into tough down-and-distance situations, holding FAU to just 20 yards rushing.
The Owls have playmakers on offense. Senior running back Larry McCammon and junior wide receiver LaJohntay Wester lead FAU in rushing and receiving by a wide margin. LaJohntay Wester has 66 receptions this year, the next closest receiver on FAU has 25. FAU will need to get the ball to their “erasers” early and often, if they hope to put up points against this vaunted Charlotte defense.
The Owls had troubles on both sides of the ball last week. FAU’s defense was not able to record a sack against UTSA. The Owls must create consistent pressure on Jalon Jones in early downs, including getting him to the ground before he reaches the second level of the defense. Jalon Jones was not sacked in last week’s game versus the Pirates, FAU’s first priority should be containing the dual-threat quarterback.
Tom Herman on Defensive Adjustments Post-Game:
“We have to fit our gaps in the run game, we were out of gaps at times and allowed the ball carrier to break free. We got bullied. We got bullied by their ballcarriers and by their front. It starts with being in the right gaps, then ends with being the bully.”
FAU looks to bounce back under the Friday night lights, while Charlotte seems determined to turn their season around with a two-game winning streak.
Coach Poggi expects the crowd at Jerry Richardson Stadium to be packed and raucous. The Niners seem to have turned a corner mentally after their road win against ECU. Jalon Jones has yet to have back-to-back great performances, but after being named the full-time starter, expect to see the Niners using him in a plethora of ways. FAU’s main concern should be limiting Charlotte’s rushing attack. If the Owls can keep the Niners from making splash plays, this game will remain close.
Final Score: FAU 14, Charlotte 17