That was ugly.
On the sixth play from scrimmage, 49ers fans were on their feet after Grant DuBose got behind the FAU defense. Quarterback Chris Reynolds drew the defense offside, rolled left, and uncorked a beautiful ball that DuBose caught with the fingertips of his outstretched arms. DuBose broke a tackle and sauntered into the end zone giving the Niners a 7-0 lead following an extra point.
That’s where the fun stopped.
FAU did anything and everything they wanted on both sides of the ball following that play. On FAU’s first offensive possession, running back Larry McCammon did his best Barry Sanders impersonation by making a few Charlotte defenders look silly on a 52 yard touchdown run. The Owls could have scored on either of the two plays before that due to some poor Charlotte defense, and FAU certainly found their way into the end zone on more than one occasion tonight scoring 43 points.
Charlotte’s third down defense was their kryptonite in Boca Raton. The Owls converted on 7 of 15 third down conversion attempts, and they converted both of their fourth down attempts on top of that. Charlotte put zero pressure on the Owl quarterbacks, and the FAU offensive line opened up massive holes in the running game all night.
FAU quarterback N’Kosi Perry finished the game 256 passing yards and both passing and rushing touchdowns before he was pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Seven other FAU ball carriers combined for 44 carries, 211 yards and two touchdowns (including McCammon’s 52-yarder).
While the defense was poor, the offense failed to cover itself in glory as well. Reynolds left the game after getting sacked on the first play of the second quarter, and he didn’t return until after halftime. The Charlotte quarterback was rolling to his left and tried to hurdle a defender in the backfield before he landed awkwardly on his head and shoulder. His final stat line (14/19 for 196 yards and two touchdowns) looks fine, but there were too many Reynolds led drives that failed to put any pressure on the FAU defense. Charlotte punted on five consecutive possessions in the first half.
James Foster relieved the injured Reynolds and his interception returned for a touchdown in the waning moments of the second quarter pretty much sealed the Niners’ fate. Foster, a Texas A&M transfer and a former four star recruit, completed one more pass (2) to the Charlotte offense than he did to the FAU defense (1).
With that said, the quarterbacks weren’t the biggest problem for the offense. The self-proclaimed “Big 3” of DuBose, Victor Tucker, and Elijah Spencer had rough nights. DuBose hauled in two big-time touchdowns, but a drop on a third down in the second quarter ended a promising Charlotte drive. Spencer dropped a pass early in the game and it seems like that may have gotten in his head as he continued to drop catchable passes all night.
Between the drops and the quarterbacks being under pressure from the offensive line all night, Charlotte never really had a chance.
It was an all too familiar sight for Charlotte fans who were hoping for a revamped defense to pair with an explosive offense in 2022. There were a handful of moments where the skill players on the offense flashed, but Reynolds’ injury, and inexperienced offensive line, and a defense with a ton of work to do leaves Charlotte with more questions than answers heading into week one.
Charlotte plays a tough schedule for Conference USA standards, and looking at a zero in the win column and a one in the loss column before half of the conference even takes the field must be a humbling feeling.
The Niners return home to play William and Mary next Friday and they’ll look to rebound against a feisty FCS opponent. However, if they can’t fix some of the issues that plagued them in week zero, it will be a long season for Will Healy and his Niners.