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In What Was Will Healy’s Final Game at Charlotte, The Niners Fall 34-15 to FIU

Charlotte was held scoreless in the 1st Half for the first time since Dec 6, 2020 (Western Kentucky)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Charlotte at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As first reported by Will Kunkel of Fox Charlotte, Will Healy has been dismissed as 49ers Head Coach. Pete Rossomando will serve as interim head coach. Healy was 1-7 in his final season with the program and had an overall record of 15-24. This is a breaking news story and will be updated throughout the day.

Here are five takeaways from the loss to FIU.

  1. Having a stout WR group does not mean much, when the O-Line can’t buy time for a QB

Charlotte takes pride in trotting out one of the best wide receiving core(s) in the conference. However, the Niners three headed snake in Elijah Spencer, Grant DuBose and Victor Tucker were never able to get going. FIU’s defensive line consistently stifled the Niners rushing attack, winning up front more often than not. Charlotte QB Chris Reynolds was under pressure from the start of the game, prohibiting him from making the necessary reads in the pocket to find receivers. FIU’s pressure on early downs forced the Niners into compromising positions (3rd & longs), resulting in Charlotte finishing the game with a 35% conversion rate on 3rd down (5 for 14).

Will Healy took note of this, stating in the post game press conference, “I thought they did a good job of keeping us in front of them. I thought there were times when we protected really well, and other times when we didn’t finish. When you get into a drop back pass game and throw the ball 43 times, you’re going to give up some pressures and hurries.”

2. Charlotte’s lack of a consistent rushing attack continually put the offense/defense in compromising positions

Charlotte’s inconsistent rushing attack did not do any favors for their defense. FIU’s run defense stifled Charlotte during the Niners first two drives of the game. As a result, the Panthers scored a strip sack touchdown and forced a punt (which only traveled 8 yards before going out of bounds).

The blueprint to slow down Charlotte’s offense seems to have been relayed to the Niners past few opponents. In the Niners matchup against South Carolina, Shane Beamer deployed a blitz heavy defensive game plan, hoping to overwhelm the Niners offensive line. It worked. The lack of any type of running game allowed opposing linebackers more freedom with their coverages, causing increased pressure in the pocket.

Through three quarters, Charlotte allotted only 51 yards on the ground, compared to 135 yards by the Panthers.

3. Charlotte’s defense consistently has trouble against scrambling/rushing QB’s

Charlotte has had trouble keeping quarterbacks in the pocket in the past few weeks. Gavin Hardison, Dylan Hopkins and Grayson James all rushed for over 50 yards on the Niners defense.

The Niners’ depleted secondary forced their linebackers to help out on the perimeter, opening up wide lanes to run for Grayson James.

Here’s Charlotte LB Prince Bemah’s response to my question regarding their troubles against mobile quarterbacks:

“Execution. If anybody was to watch us practice throughout the week, you can see that we prepare and execute at a high level. Game time situations are going to be harder than going against scouts, we just got to be prepared.”

4. Charlotte must move on from their conservative defensive mindset

All game it seemed as if the Niners were giving FIU free 5 yard outs. Charlotte’s defensive backs played soft coverage time and time again, allowing the Panthers receivers to get into an early groove. The Niners’ conservative mindset played right into FIU’s hands, as Grayson James finished the game with a 75% completion rate (25-33).

I asked HC Will Healy if playing soft coverage and keeping everything in front of the defense was a part of Charlotte’s game plan.

Here was his response: “It’s been our game plan the last couple weeks. We gave up so many deep balls the first couple of games. We have Nolan Groulx moving to corner...helping him was important. Credit to [FIU] because they were patient enough to take advantage of it.”

5. Charlotte’s run defense showed signs of improvement

The achilles heel for the Niners all season has been their inability to stop the run. Time of possession has been a consistent problem for Charlotte. Opposing teams are able to dictate the pace of play, putting more pressure on the Niners offense to score the ball.

Despite giving up 147 yards on the ground, Charlotte made big tackles on early downs to limit the amount of third and manageable chances for the Panthers. Charlotte LB Prince Bemah contributed heavily in their run defense, finishing with 14 total tackles (5 solo - 1 tackle for loss). To Charlotte’s discredit, FIU was still able to gain first downs after the Niners’ early stops.

Charlotte will have an uphill battle this week, as they prepare for Rice University. The Owls will enter this game with momentum, coming off of an OT win against Louisiana Tech (42-41).