Photo credit: Chris Carlson, AP
There’s an old fable by Aesop called “The Tortoise and the Hare.” The basic point of the story is that the slow and steady tortoise wins the race against the hare. On Saturday night in Charlotte, the team with the tortoise-like mascot did the opposite of that fable, hit the gas early, and never looked back at the Niners in their rear-view mirror.
Maryland’s fast start
Maryland scored on eight of their first nine drives, slicing and dicing a hapless Charlotte defense. Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns, while adding another one on the ground. Tua’s younger brother got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Giving up 40+ points has become a trend for the Charlotte defense. The only 40s Charlotte fans really want to see are the “49s” on their jersey, but they’re seeing them plastered on the scoreboard week in and week out. At some point, something has to change, right? The defense is hapless. It’s understandable to give up 56 points to a power five school like Maryland, but it’s the way it happened that is frustrating Charlotte fans.
Far too often there was a Terrapin receiver streaking down the field without a Niner in sight. Far too often when there was a Niner in sight, they were bouncing off the Maryland ball-carriers. And when Charlotte would have the Maryland offense backed up, they would convert on third down. It’s the same old song and dance that we’ve seen dating back to last season. I’m not smart enough to know why or how opposing receivers are open on every play, but Will Healy is. Greg Brown is.
To the naked eye, it’s not all talent deficiency for Charlotte. Yes, the secondary is dealing with injuries. Yes, Maryland has infinitely more resources than Charlotte. But it doesn’t have to look like this. When Charlotte scheduled this home and home with Maryland in 2016, I’m sure the Charlotte regime at the time expected the program to be at a point where they could hang with the big dogs at this point.
Some positives on offense
On the other side of the ball, it’s hard to expect much more than what was delivered. Xavier Williams acquitted himself well in his first college start, but he was overmatched before he even stepped on the field. Williams led a long, aggressive (3-3 on fourth down tries) drive to start the game, but was only able to lead one more scoring drive before he was pulled in the fourth quarter. I’m not one for moral victories, but Williams may have secured the quarterback role in the post-Chris Reynolds era in Charlotte.
The Big Three (Tucker, DuBose, and Spencer) all played well today and helped out their freshman quarterback, but the talented trio wasn’t enough to really push Maryland. A failed onside kick attempt (that I liked!) zapped the early momentum that Charlotte had on offense and they were rarely able to recapture the magic of that opening drive the rest of the afternoon.
What happens next?
Things won’t get easier going forward for Charlotte. A trip to a solid Georgia State squad next week is followed up by a trip to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks, and 0-4 is staring Charlotte in the face. Georgia State hung with the state universities of both North and South Carolina the past two weeks, and ESPN FPI only gives Charlotte a 16.4% chance to take down the Panthers.
I’m not a fan of calling for people’s jobs, but questions about the future of Will Healy’s tenure are becoming more palatable. Where does Charlotte go from here? The odds are down. It’s hard to imagine this Charlotte squad competing in either of their next two games, but maybe they can turn things around and compete in Atlanta next Saturday.
For the sake of Will Healy and this entire coaching staff, they better hope so.