Photo credit: Charlotte Football
After a sleepy start against South Carolina State, the 49ers pulled away in the second half to handle the Bulldogs on Labor Day Weekend. This week, they travel to College Park, Maryland, to face the Terrapins in what will be a huge step up in weight class for the Niners.
Here are Charlotte’s keys to victory:
Lean on the new age “Big Three.”
I’m coining a new nickname for the three-headed monster in the Charlotte backfield. Durell Robinson, Shadrick Byrd, and Terron Kellman imposed their will against the overmatched SC State Bulldogs last week, and they’ll need a repeat performance if Charlotte wants to hang around in Maryland.
Robinson specifically was a capital D Dawg in his first Charlotte action. He ran for 71 yards on 11 carries and showed high-level strength and agility in his FBS debut. Kellman and Byrd had more modest rushing outputs, but the three backfield options are über-talented, and relying on them will limit possessions for the Maryland offense and allow Charlotte to control the clock.
Towson ran for 148 yards at a 4.4 yards-per-carry clip against Maryland last week. Modest success, but a model for Charlotte to follow this weekend.
Make Taulia Tagovailoa uncomfortable.
The younger Tagovailoa brother had a field day in Charlotte last season. Taulia had five passing touchdowns before halftime before rushing for a sixth one in the third quarter, earning Big Ten offensive player of the week honors. Charlotte defensive backs chasing wide receivers into the end zone was all too common a sight in 2022, but things may be different with the “bad company” in 2023.
Yes, South Carolina State was very overmatched, but Charlotte held freshman quarterback Andre Washington to 59 yards on 6 completions over four quarters of football.
Eyabi Okie-Anoma, Demon Clowney, and Jules Welschof are all Power Five transfers who have the natural ability to make a difference against a team as talented as Maryland. The Terrapins struggled to protect Tagovailoa last week against an FCS program in Towson, and their starting right tackle is still questionable to play this weekend. The Niners’ talented pass rush flashed in week one, and it’ll need to be the north star that leads the roster this weekend.
This is a homecoming for many people in the Charlotte program.
Head coach Biff Poggi and multiple staff members were integral parts of the rise of the Saint Frances Academy football program.
29 players on the team went to Saint Frances Academy, which is less than an hour from College Park.
Six players on the team transferred from the University of Maryland.
This game is a big deal for a large chunk of the program, even for those who have no connection to Maryland.
A 7:30 P.M. kickoff on NBC is the biggest stage most of these kids have ever played on. There has been big talk up and down the program about this being a new era of Charlotte football. On Saturday night, they have the opportunity to show the entire country what this new era is going to be about.
It’s a big deal.
Charlotte has all the talent in the world and the ability to compete on a stage this big. We’ll see if they can capture this moment or if they’ll let it slip.