Charlotte fails to win a conference game at home this season, losing 28-7 to the Rice Owls.
Here’s the game recap:
Charlotte received the ball first, with Trexler Ivey starting at quarterback for the Niners. Charlotte elected to punt the ball after a quick three-and-out, giving AJ Padgett and the Rice Owls the ball at midfield. Rice began their drive with a 23-yard run by junior running back Dean Connors, setting the Owls offense up in the red zone just three plays into the drive. A few plays later, AJ Padgett rushed up the middle for a 5-yard score, giving Padgett his first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career.
Charlotte’s second drive ended in a turnover on downs after the Niners failed to convert a fourth down on Rice’s 38-yard line. On the following drive, Rice also found themselves in a 4th down and short situation. The Owls connected on a 7-yard pass from Padgett to freshman wide receiver Landon Ramsom-Goelz to keep the drive going. On the next play, Dean Connors rushed up the middle for a 30-yard gain, giving the Owls a 1st & Goal at Charlotte’s 6-yard line. Charlotte’s defense held up in the red zone, capped off by defensive end Eyabi Okie-Anoma forcing 4th & Goal with a pass deflection. The Rice Owls average 90 rushing yards per game. At the end of the first quarter, they had allotted 84 yards on the ground. (Score 10-0)
Charlotte switched quarterbacks, replacing Jalon Jones with Trexler Ivey with seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Charlotte has only scored 20 points in the first quarter this season, 14 of those at Maryland. Coach Poggi comments on the repeated slow starts on offense: “It is a real factor. It has been all season. Not only at the start of the game, but also at the half...it’s not like we’re threatening anybody offensively.”
Jalon Jones remained in the game for the first drive of the second quarter, getting a splash play to Joachim Bangda for 15 yards on a pitch to the left. The Niner’s offense stalled out after a quick first down, punting the ball and pinning the Owls on their own 5-yard line. Charlotte forced their first turnover of the game with 10:35 remaining in the 2nd quarter, after cornerback CJ Burton intercepted AJ Padgett on a pass over the middle. The Niner’s offense couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, punting the ball back to Rice after a three-and-out.
The next big play occurred with 5 minutes left in the half. Rice’s redshirt junior wide receiver Luke McCaffrey broke free for a 40-yard gain, putting the Owls in scoring position. Charlotte’s defense held up, forcing Rice to kick a field goal, making the score 13-0 with 4:15 remaining in the half. Trexler Ivey replaced Jalon Jones on the following drive after a personal foul was called on Rice’s defensive end Coleman Coco. After an official review, the personal foul was upgraded to targeting, disqualifying Coco for the rest of the game.
Jalon Jones was ruled out for the rest of the game with a concussion sustained on the targeting hit by Coleman Coco.
Charlotte got their second turnover of the game, with Al-Ma’hi Ali forcing a fumble on Dean Connors after the running back rushed for a 22-yard gain. The Niners flipped a short field on the turnover, with 43 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. After three plays, Charlotte found themselves in a 4th & 1 situation with 27 seconds remaining in the half. The Niners went for it, but a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the Rice 38-yard line. Charlotte kicker Kyle Cunanan missed the 48-yard attempt, keeping the score locked at 13-0 going into halftime.
Charlotte managed to net only 88 total yards in the first half, compared to Rice’s 196 (143 yards rushing).
Coach Poggi on the team’s inability to capitalize on defensive turnovers: “When you have a really tough football team, you use those turnovers at catalysts. Offensively, we were just totally inept today. We’ve been inept a lot, our best game was last week. Coming in, we didn’t think Rice was a powerhouse on defense, but we certainly made them look like that today...you know, our quarterback position is our quarterback position. We desperately need an upgrade at that position, and that’s just the truth.”
Rice received the ball to start the second half. On the drive’s second play, Dean Connors broke a run for 34 yards down to Charlotte’s 27-yard line. Three plays later, AJ Padgett rushed to the right for a 2-yard touchdown. The Owls chose to go for two, completing the conversion after wide receiver Rawson MacNeil hauled in a jump ball in the end zone. Rice completed a 6-play, 76-yard touchdown drive in 3 minutes and 21 seconds, making the score 21-0 at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
The Niners’ rushing defense was non-existent, allowing Dean Connors to average 13.6 yards per carry in just over one half of play. Charlotte’s Defensive Coordinator Ryan Osborn was incensed with the team’s rushing defense, saying “The run game was an issue, next man up. If you see the guys on the field, next man up. It is what it is. We’ve been hot and cold. One week we give up a bunch of pass yards, next week we don’t. One week we give up a bunch of run yards, next week we don’t.”
AJ Padgett threw his 2nd interception of the day 1 minute into the fourth quarter. Charlotte’s linebacker Demetrius Knight intercepted the pass over the middle of the field, returning the ball for 39 yards to the Rice 15-yard line. Knight’s interception made him tied for 3rd most in a season in Charlotte history (3).
Charlotte got on the board with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter, after Trexler Ivey scrambled left for a 12-yard touchdown, making the score 21-7. Rice put the game away with a 13-play, 75-yard drive lasting 7 minutes and 17 seconds, which included a converted 4th & 6 to keep the clock ticking. Rice decided to go for it again on another 4th & 6 attempt, this time converting for a 20-yard touchdown pass from AJ Padgett to Luke McCaffrey.
Charlotte received the ball back with 2 minutes and 7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Niners made another switch at quarterback, putting in senior Dom Shoffner to finish the game. On the fourth play of the drive, Shoffner threw an interception to Rice cornerback Tre’Shon Devones.
Rice ended the game on a knee to run the clock out. After losing last year’s matchup 56-23, the Owls responded with a win against Charlotte.
Final Score: 28-7