Date/Time: Saturday, October 29, 2:00 PM ET
TV: ESPN3 (Play-By-Play: David Saltzman/Analyst: Chris Mycoskie)
Radio: Learfield/Charlotte Sports Network (Play-By-Play: Matt Swierad/Analyst: Al Wallace/Sideline: Bobby Rosinski)
Location: Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
Betting Line: Rice -16.5 O/U 59.5
All-Time Series Record: 49ers trail, 1-2 (Charlotte won most recent matchup 31-24 in OT, Nov. 6, 2021)
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
After an underwhelming home loss to FIU during homecoming weekend, Charlotte decided to move on from former HC Will Healy. The change occurred Sunday morning, following a loss that eliminated the Niners from bowl eligibility consideration. Offensive line coach Pete Rossomando was named Interim Head Coach.
Nothing seemed to go right for Charlotte last weekend. From the start, the Niners committed costly turnovers and unforced errors, allowing the Panthers to quickly gain momentum.
Interim Head Coach Pete Rossomando understands that getting off to a good start, will make the game easier on both the offense and defense, stating in Tuesday’s post-practice press conference:
“Early on, we just got behind the 8 ball really fast, the feeling was that we could rally back and every time we would start…we could keep getting behind the chains. We can’t turn the ball over and get off the field with three and outs.”
Charlotte’s defensive game plan was fairly conservative, as the Niners constantly played soft coverage on the outside in order to alleviate pressure off their depleted secondary. This defensive scheme played right into FIU’s hands, as Mike MacIntyre and the Panthers methodically moved the ball down the field, time and time again.
Through three quarters, FIU quarterback Grayson James completed 23 of his 28 pass attempts (82%).
The same could not be said for the Niners offense. Charlotte’s lack of a consistent rushing attack has been a point of emphasis for opposing teams. In the past few weeks, the blueprint to limiting Charlotte’s offense has been the same. Blitz heavy packages have given the offense trouble, prohibiting Chris Reynolds from making the necessary reads to find his receivers down field.
The Niners will get chances to attack the Owls down the field, if Charlotte’s offensive line and run game can get into a rhythm early. One thing is for certain, the Niners will not lack confidence in their matchup against Rice University.
“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” Charlotte QB Chris Reynolds said this week.
The Owls head into this week feeling confident, following a nail-biter OT victory against Louisiana Tech (42-41). This game was an offensive shootout, as Rice finished the game with 487 yards in total offense.
Rice quarterback TJ McMahon finished last week’s game with his highest QBR for the season (90.2). TJ completed 16 for 27 pass attempts, including three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
In Tuesday’s press conference, Charlotte defensive end Markees Watts stated how the Niners focus will start by winning up front and stopping the run.
“They have a talented offense, but our target this week is #1 (RB Cameron Montgomery). He is not huge in size, not powerful, but he’s the most agile running back I’ve seen this season.”
Charlotte should look to switch up their defensive game plan for Rice, rather than letting the Owls repeatedly take what is given to them.
Rice has the ability to put up points with anyone in the C-USA, however, the Owls hang their hat on the defensive side of the ball. Coming into this matchup, Rice ranks third in the C-USA in rushing defense and sixth in pass efficiency defense.
The Owls’ secondary will have their hands full with Charlotte’s receiving core, however, Rice’s success will be predicated on how often their defensive line can win the battle up front.
Rice excels when they start fast. The Owls are 3-1 in the 2022 season when scoring first, compared to 1-2 when opponents score first. Charlotte enters this matchup with the same mindset. After a changing of the guard at head coach, the Niners seem to have a newfound intensity that looks to be displayed this Saturday. Although the Niners success may not be sustainable for the rest of the season, it’s reasonable they will put up more than a fight against the Rice Owls.
Final Score: Charlotte 24 - Rice 31