PHOTO CREDIT: JONATHAN AGUALLO
The Charlotte 49ers return home on Friday night for a Week One tilt against FCS opponent William & Mary. The Tribe are traditionally a solid football program, but they have been middling at best the past few seasons. However, they are just on the outside looking in of the FCS top-25 polls, and they’re coming to Charlotte looking to make some noise against a reeling 49ers football team. It would be a sizable upset if William and Mary takes down Charlotte, but the Tribe are not to be overlooked. Here are my Quiz to Success for the Niners.
Big Game James
According to head coach Will Healy, Chris Reynolds will not suit up for Charlotte on Friday night, making James Foster the starter. In limited action against FAU on Saturday night, Foster had a rough go of it. His final stats weren’t great on paper (2-9 passing, 21 yards, and an interception), but if Grant DuBose, Elijah Spencer, and Taylor Thompson didn’t drop some catchable balls, those numbers would look a little bit better.
When Foster committed to Charlotte as a transfer from Texas A&M, he came with copious amounts of hype. 24/7 Sports recruiting database ranked Foster as a four-star recruit, and the 12th best dual threat quarterback in the nation for the class of 2018. To this point, the biggest impact Foster has had on the Charlotte football program was convincing Will Healy to check out an unknown kid named Grant DuBose.
This is only Foster’s second opportunity to start a game in green and gold, and the Niners need him to be better than the last time he got the nod as the starting quarterback. Foster is extremely gifted physically. He has all of the tools to be a successful quarterback in Conference USA. Friday is his chance to take a massive opportunity and run with it. William and Mary gave up almost 250 passing yards per game last year against an FCS-heavy schedule. For Charlotte to dominate W&M (like they should), Foster will need to show up and take advantage of a porous pass defense.
Can Anyone On Defense Make A Play?
I mean literally anyone. FAU got whatever they wanted and then some on Saturday night.
Forty-Niner edge rushers Amir Saddiq and Markees Watts notched two pressures each against the Owls, and the Charlotte defense didn’t register a single QB hit on N’Kosi Perry or Willie Taggart Junior.
Every Charlotte cornerback posted a PFF coverage grade below 60.0 (out of 100) according to Hunter Bailey of the Charlotte Observer. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in school, but I’m still young enough to know that a 60 isn’t a passing grade.
On top of that, Charlotte missed far too many tackles in Boca Raton. The Owl’s opening touchdown from Larry McCammon was a masterclass in bad defense. Both Lacy Williams and Valerian Agbaw had a chance to bring down McCammon, and both were left eating the tailback’s dust as he waltzed into the end zone.
Greg Brown was brought in to overhaul the defense and the first 60 minutes of football this season haven’t shown much. The defense needs to drastically improve if the Niners want to go bowling, and their first shot at improvement is Friday night.
Clean Up Mistakes
I’ve never coached football, but I am the head coach of a high school lacrosse team in South Carolina. Stupid mistakes drive me up a wall as a coach. If Will Healy is the same way, the rest of his support staff must have had to pick him off the ceiling after the FAU game.
Between dropped passes, missed defensive assignments, penalties, silly turnovers, missed tackles, and wasted time outs, Charlotte shot themselves in the foot over, and over, (and over, and over, and over), time and time (and time, and time, and time) again against Florida Atlantic.
If Charlotte can clean up those mistakes, things will begin to improve.
Win On Third And Fourth Down
This one is simple. Charlotte was 2-13 on 3rd and 4th down conversion tries. FAU was 10-18.
If you can’t sustain drives, and your opponent can, it’s going to be a long night at the office.
On the offensive end, some of this will be helped by cleaning up mistakes. Penalties and drops on early downs meant that Charlotte’s offense was often left trying to convert on third and long unlike FAU.
The Owl’s had plenty of success on early downs both rushing and passing, and most of their conversions were shorter in distance.
This game is going to be closer than it should. Charlotte still has a ton to prove on defense and it wouldn’t be shocking to see William and Mary move the ball a bit. The Tribe are returning both their starting quarterback and running back from 2021, and the continuity will only be helpful for their offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Niners do have some matchup advantages. Dubose, Victor Tucker, and Elijah Spencer are mismatches for FBS teams, let alone an FCS school with less talent and depth.
Foster and the offense should attack early and often on Friday night and I believe that Charlotte will be able to put points on the home side of the scoreboard. The visitor side may get lit up a bit too, but Charlotte will find enough stops to hold off William & Mary and take home a 27-17 win at home.