Photo credit: Sam Roberts, Freeze Frame
Charlotte’s offensive struggles continue
I can’t recall after which game Coach Biff Poggi stated it, but he previously mentioned needing to score 30 points per game to win games in the AAC. After 5 games, Charlotte’s failed to hit that number in every contest, and the offense has only yielded 10 touchdowns thus far. I felt that we’d see Jalon Jones be the guy at quarterback after Florida out, but that isn’t how thing unfolded in the AAC opener at SMU.
Coach Biff Poggi SMU Postgame interview
Biff is, as usual, candid about his thoughts. This time he was more reflective, instead of frustrated/emotional like he was after the Georgia State game. He states he’s done a poor job of getting them ready and ends the interview with this; “Our kids play like a team that isn’t well coached.” He also talks about the QB rotation, perhaps we’ve seen the end of that as Charlotte is still searching for consistency and an offensive identity?
Charlotte hurt themselves on multiple occasions in Dallas, especially in the opening minutes. Austin Fontaine gets a key sack on 3rd down and would have forced a 50-yard field goal attempt (would have been 4th and 16 from the SMU 32-yard line), but he grabbed Preston Stone’s facemask and SMU was awarded an automatic first down. The Mustangs scored on a 12-yard pass play on the subsequent snap (7-0).
On Charlotte’s first drive they were aggressive and went for a fourth and 1 from their own 27 and converted easily. They would not be able to pick up another first down and were forced to punt. A poor snap that proceeded to go under Punter Grant Gonya allowed SMU to take over from their own 15. An Eyabi Okie-Anoma sack on the first play after this looked like the Charlotte defense may bail out the special team’s mishap, but 3 plays later the Mustangs found paydirt and were up 14-0 just over 10 minutes into the game.
The offense did show some signs of life when Trexler Ivey entered for Jalon Jones. The Jones-led drives resulted in a turnover on the first drive via the bad snap on a punt, a missed 43-yard field goal which was set up by an explosive 52-yard run by Jones, and a 10-play drive that stalled once inside the 10 resulting in a 21-yard FG by Jake Larson (he replaced Kyle Cunanan after his previous miss), a 3-and-out, a 7-play drive for 28 yards to end the half, another 3-and-out to start the 2nd half, and a failed fourth down conversion attempt in their own territory after not picking up a first down.
Ivey’s first drive was a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Jack Hestera on a 4th and goal. Trailing at that time 27 to 9, Charlotte’s defense would force a punt, and the Niners lead another impressive drive, this one 14-plays for 74 yards and another touchdown, making it a ball game at 27-16. Unfortunately for Charlotte fans, the momentum was thwarted with another SMU touchdown and an interception from Ivey.
Charlotte has to find a way to get out of their own way. To echo Coach Poggi’s postgame thoughts, we aren’t creating winning plays, and Charlotte hasn’t shown the ability to be productive enough on offense to overcome mistakes that lead to points for the other team.
If you would have told me Saturday afternoon that Charlotte would win the time of possession battle by nearly 11 minutes, force an interception, hold SMU to less than 400 total yards and only be out gained by 32 yards, I would have guessed that the game was a toss-up. Clearly that’s not how it played out at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, and Charlotte returns to the 704 for a much-needed bye week as they have more than 3 questions to answer before hosting Navy on October 14th at 2pm for Homecoming.