Charlotte faces ODU with bowl eligibility on the line
Win or go home, that is the mentality that Charlotte is taking into the final regular-season game of the year. After a loss last week against Marshall, the 49ers sit at 5-6 with one win needed to clinch bowl eligibility. Their opponent; an Old Dominion team who has won four straight games.
Not the ideal situation that any team would want to be in where you’re not playing to the best of your abilities and your opponent is playing to theirs. However, coach Healy is not looking at this game in a negative light, but rather another opportunity to play the game and show what the team is capable of.
“It is probably the first time and only time we’ve gotten beat on a Saturday and talked in the locker room about how fired up I am for another opportunity,” Healy said in his mid-week press conference.
“It is a big week for us,” he added. It is indeed a big week as mentioned, the team can clinch bowl eligibility with a win, the second in Healy’s three years here.
It will be a tough task as ODU comes in red-hot. Winners of their last four, ODU poses the threat of running, which by now people know is not the 49ers’ strong suit. Monarch running back Blake Watson is the definition of a grown man running back. He has only played in nine of the Monarch’s games but averages 103.2 yards per game on the ground.
He will not be easily stopped and the 49ers will need to find something this week in practice that they haven’t had all season thus far if they hope to keep Watson contained in the slightest come Saturday.
Keys to the game
1. Give Chris Reynolds some time: In recent weeks, Reynolds has had to roll out of the pocket much more than he might like to. Yes, he is a guy who likes to extend plays, but a lot of holding calls were demoralizing for the team especially against Marshall on several third downs.
“We just need to fix our technique,” lineman Ashton Gist said. “It was just the little things that were getting bad on the offensive line, and if we can get those fixed we will be okay.”
2. Helmets to the runner: We have reached the end of the season and one issue still remains the run defense. There have been five running backs to have career highs against the 49ers rushing defense this season. It goes without saying, this is not good. So, against another talented running back like Watson, there need to be four or five helmets in there trying to get him to the ground. Go back to the fundamentals and wrap up. Be tough and physical. It is a must if they want to win and gain bowl eligibility.
Looking to gameday
The 49ers will be traveling on Friday up to Norfolk. Gametime is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. You can listen to the game live on ESPN 730 The Game or tune in on ESPN+. If you are in a pinch for time and just want some periodic updates, follow my Twitter @cwilliamssports for game updates throughout the game.