Photo credit: Sam Roberts, Freeze Frame
Charlotte leverages an elite defensive performance from Ryan Osborn’s unit to get a their first ever American Athletic Conference win and break a five-game slide. That unit was led by Demetrius Knight (now named AAC Defensive Player of the Week), Eyabi Okie-Anoma, Nikhai Hill-Green and Stone Handy. I feel pretty confident they would have shut out ECU, but a fumbled punt return gave ECU the ball inside the 10, and they scored 2 plays later. Charlotte’s defense held ECU to 127 total yards, the lowest the program has ever allowed in a game. It’s another sign of growth for this defense, as they’ve only allowed 21 points over the last 8 quarters. Another great sign, play of 20+ yards were allowed. After 3 games of AAC play so far, only SMU has allowed less points than Charlotte in conference. CLT has given up 55, and SMU only 26, good company to be in. For Charlotte’s defense to take the next step, they need to find a way to create more turnovers, and the opportunities were there on Saturday, with multiple balls seemingly in the hands of Niner defenders, just unable to complete the interception.
On the offensive side of things, Jalon Jones appears to have cemented himself in the QB1, Biff Poggi said as much in his post game comments to Bobby Rosinski You can listen to Coach Poggi’s postgame sideline presser below:
Jones accounted for 271 of Charlotte’s 328 total yards and showed that the offense is all in on the option game and seemingly plan to use his legs as much as possible. This far into the season, it’s the smart play, as he’s the most explosive player has on that side of the field. Charlotte’s offensive line is playing better than earlier in the year, as they gave up no sacks in this one, but ECU did manage 6 tackles for loss. Shad Byrd couldn’t get on track in Greenville, carrying it 12 times for only 32 yards, and he also fumbled 2 pitches on the speed option, but fortunately the Niners recovered those.
Special teams really struggled in this one, something that hadn’t been an issue all season long. Charlotte missed 2 FG’s, fumbled a punt at the ECU 10 and almost had a turnover on ECU’s opening punt, where a Niner ran into Henry Rutledge while he was waiting to catch it.
Charlotte has plenty to be happy about after the win, but there are plenty of items that need to be cleaned up as well. The game wasn’t as close as the final indicates, but Charlotte simply doesn’t have the firepower to consistently overcome turnovers and penalties.
Friday night on national television, 7:30pm on ESPN2, at Jerry Richardson Stadium should be a fun one. I anticipate ticket sales will get a nice boost after the win at ECU, and the weather looks to be perfect. Wayne Jones left the game on Saturday with an injury, hopefully we’ll get a mid-week update on his status. Charlotte’s safety room isn’t deep, so a loss there could be troublesome.
The early lines currently have Charlotte +5.5.