FIU at Charlotte: what to watch

by Oct 21, 2022Football

Victor Tucker vs MTSU

Photo credit: Charlotte Athletics

Can Charlotte rekindle the 2019 magic to reel off 5-in-a-row again?

I have doubts, and recent data and results show it’ll be a monumental task to do so. When Charlotte got hot in 2019, the defense tightened up and surrender just over 22 points per game. Right now, Charlotte’s giving up the most points per game in FBS at over 44 points per game. Can the necessary changes be implemented to turn that tide? I think for that to happen we have to play perfect football in all three phases, and that’s yet to happen in 1 game this year, much less an extended stretch of games.

Charlotte desperately needs a win this weekend, enter FIU, a fellow ESPN Bottom 10 comrade. Clearly both teams are struggling mightily this season, though FIU will be getting starting QB Gunnar Holmberg back from concussion, per Eric Henry of Underdog Dynasty (tweet). That Tweet also highlights that FIU’s star WR Tyrese Chambers will be a game-time decision — he’s a huge piece for FIU and someone Charlotte would rather not face. Chambers torched Charlotte’s defense last year for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. Given the secondary woes, Chambers not being able to go would certainly relieve some of the pressure on Greg Brown’s defensive unit.

What to watch

Defense improving?

Charlotte surrendered less than 40 points for the first time in a game last week at UAB since last year’s homecoming win over Rice in overtime, 31-24. Charlotte was opportunistic in stopping UAB inside the 10 and forcing a long field goal miss. UAB certainly aided with some ineptitude at times as well.

Allowing 34 points was a step in the right direction, however UAB still amassed over 500 yards in total offense, with 279 yards on the ground. From reading up on FIU, the offensive line appears to be a weak point, so let’s see if Charlotte’s defensive line can apply some pressure here.

Offensive consistency

The offense was going to be Charlotte’s strong-suit this season, but consistency just hasn’t been there at this point. Last week featured some uncharacteristic turnovers from Reynolds, and an ill-time fumble from star Sophomore Elijah Spencer when Charlotte was in plus territory.

Charlotte needs Reynolds to be hitting on all cylinders if there is any hope to go on a tear. Unlink the 2019 campaign, we’re not going to see a mobile Chris Reynolds in the RPO game, his body just can’t take that beating.

Special Teams

We’ve yet to experience any game-changing plays on special teams from Tyler Hancock’s unit so far this season. A struggling team like FIU might present an opportunity to make something big happen and allow us to take some pressure off of Mark Carney and Greg Brown. Let’s hope this is the weekend Shadrick Byrd or Henry Rutledge bust something open with an explosive kickoff return.

Of note, Charlotte’s only attempted 2 field goals all season long. In my opinion a big part of that is due to the ineffectiveness of the defense, we simply can’t trade 3 points for 7 points.

Closing thoughts

Hopefully you all can make it out to Jerry Richardson Stadium to root on the Niners. I’ll be tied up with some family obligations and will catch this on-demand Saturday evening. The game will be streamed on ESPN3 and carried on ESPN 730am.

Be sure to drop by the Normbulance’s tailgate (stadium side, just to the left of Gate 2). A pregame toast, which is accompanied with Ninerschager shots occurs approximately 1 hour before kick. All are welcome, it’s a great way to meet some new Niners if you haven’t tailgated with that group before.

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