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After five weeks, Charlotte and Biff Poggi entered a well-timed bye week at 1-4 (0-1), coming off a disappointing conference opener at SMU. Clearly the season has not started off how the fans and program would have liked, especially given the talk of competing for championships talk in preseason from head coach Biff Poggi. You don’t start 1-4 without some flaws and concerns rearing up, so let’s go ahead and jump into what I feel are the worrisome areas.
The Offensive Line
Biff Poggi wants to a power run oriented offense at Charlotte, that’s clear, but the offense line hasn’t provided the level of consistency needed to effectively do this. Charlotte running game (when removing QB carries/sacks) have accounted for 109 touches and 415 yards through 5 games. That means running backs, WR sweeps etc., have accounted for just 83 yards per game thus far, and a 3.8 yard per carry average. Charlotte has run out the same OL all year long, except for the GSU game when Jonathan bass played Right Guard in place of Ja’Khi Green. Charlotte is allowing double digit pressures per game as well. Will we see any shift in personnel here? Panda Askew seems to be out for the remainder of the season due to surgery. Tyler Thomas is out for the year as he did not receive a waiver to be eligible this season.
The rotation, effectively going with the hot hand, at Quarterback sounds like it will continue, based on Head Coach Biff Poggi’s comments on ESPN 730 this week (listen here on Spotify). “We need to get better, we’re going to stick with what we’ve been doing, it’s a marathon not a sprint, I have confidence in both of them.” If it works, that’s great, but when it doesn’t, it seems to stall rhythm and cohesion. This will be one of the items to watch most on Saturday.
Can Charlotte stop hurting themselves? The SMU game is the perfect example, the face mask penalty on the first drive that extended it, and led to a TD, to be followed up with a bad snap on a punt. Charlotte’s offense just hasn’t had the production at this point in the season to overcome these types of hiccups.
It’s not just stopping opponents’ big plays, like the 95+ yard scores from SMU (still unsure how that flag was picked up) and Georgia State. Charlotte’s offense has to create them as well. Aside from Jalon Jones using his legs, the plays have been few and far between. Hopefully Charlotte’s healthy (Jairus Mack gives a vertical threat when 100%) but it sounds like running back Durell Robinson will not be available for this one, he’s had a nagging ankle injury thus far.
Thoughts on Navy
This one will mark Charlotte’s first contest versus Navy, and Jerry Richardson Stadium is sold out for homecoming. Navy is 2-3 (1-2) and fresh off a 27-24 win over North Texas in Annapolis, MD. Charlotte has seven games left, and needs 5 wins to become bowl eligible. Out of those seven, only 1 team currently has a winning record, Memphis. Handling business versus the Midshipmen would provide the Niners with much needed momentum as they head to Greenville to take on East Carolina next week. Where the Pirates fanbase is now heavily questioning Mike Houston’s status as their lead man.
This isn’t the prototypical Navy triple option offense, it’s more modernized but remains run heavy. Aside from their season opener in Ireland versus Notre Dame, Navy’s been competitive in every contest, including a late-game opportunity to win at Memphis that fell just short. I expect this one to be a hard-fought contest, likely coming down to the final minutes.
Bobby Rosinski mentioned Navy is 3rd in the nation in fumbles forced (on Niners Live, link is below), certainly an eye-opening stat and something to watch on Saturday.
What I’d like to see from Charlotte
Please see the Questions section, is Charlotte able to remedy these tomorrow? Beyond those, is Charlotte finally able to have a full game in all three phases? To do so Mike Miller’s group will need to have their best showing this year. I’m genuinely intrigued to see how the QB position evolved over the break in action, I know what Coach Poggi said, but saying and doing are not mutually exclusive come time for kickoff. Regardless of the QB situation, Charlotte has to find a way to be better on first and second down to put the offense in more manageable third down situations.
Ryan Osborn’s group will have their hands full, and this one is a great opportunity for big man Jonathan Wallace to make his presence felt by helping clog up the middle. For a team that’s desperate to win, facing a methodical offense like Navy’s will be a huge test. Charlotte’s defensive players will be consistently tested and if you are over-aggressive, Navy will make you pay.
In the Kicking game, is Jake Larson now the guy on field goals and PATs? Larson replaced Kyle Cunanan after a missed 43-yard attempt in the first quarter versus SMU, and fell to 2-5 on FGA for the year, which includes a 50+ yard miss at Florida. Of note, Charlotte’s opponents are 13-13 on their FGA so far this season, the Niners are due for some luck on this front.
Projections from the Internet
via @statowar on Twitter
The oddsmakers again have Charlotte as an underdog, with most books having Charlotte at +3. The current O/U is 43.5, with the moneyline hovering around +130 for Charlotte.
Charlotte Football: Week 7 Navy Press Conference
In case you missed it, you can stream Niners Line on demand via The Varsity Network: Listen now