The Charlotte 49ers host the Rice Owls in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday, Nov. 6. The 49ers look to get back on track on homecoming weekend after two straight losses.
Charlotte comes into the game with a 4-4 record while Rice is 3-5 coming off an overtime loss to North Texas. The team is ready to get back on the field in front of their home crowd in what should be a critical matchup
"This is a big week for us, a huge football game," said Head Coach Will Healy. "We are excited to be at home and excited to go out there and earn the opportunity to get better this week.
49ers to Watch For:
Keep an eye out for Charlotte's fifth-year quarterback Chris Reynolds. Reynolds will be returning at quarterback after not playing in last week's 45-13 loss to Western Kentucky due to an apparent hand injury.
Reynolds has been off to a scorching hot start this season, winning Conference USA player of the week honors twice. He is fifth in C-USA for total offensive yards, with 1,735 with 1,537 yards being through the air while the other 198 have been on the ground. He also is ranked second for total offensive touchdowns with 19, so expect him to keep pace when he returns to the field.
The defensive side of the ball for the 49ers will rely on Tyler Murray and Luke Martin. Murray has 56 tackles on the season, while Martin has 38. Expect the linebackers to step up and contain Rice's running game by preventing big plays.
"We need to be more consistent and execute at a higher level," said Martin. "Counting on your teammates, picking your teammates up, like coach says all the time, help your brother if he messes up and be there for him."
Owls to Watch For:
A significant part of the team is the rushing trio of tight end Jordan Myers and running backs Khalan Griffin and Ari Broussard. They have a combined total of 917 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the year. They are all very physical and can wear down defenses.
Rice has used a committee of quarterbacks the season, but graduate student Jake Constantine is getting the start under center for Saturday's game. Constantine threw for 242 yards in last week's loss against North Texas. Don't be surprised to see the Owls bring out first-year redshirt quarterback Luke McCaffery, the little brother of Carolina Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffery, to play under center and throw the defense off by running the ball.
"They have physical running backs," said Healy. "A bunch of them run really hard, and their quarterbacks are both really accurate and can also extend plays. I've been impressed that both of them have made some plays when things have broken down,"
Keys to a Charlotte Victory:
The Achilles' heel for the 49ers all season has been containing their opponents' running game. Rice features three solid physical running backs that will try to wear out the defense, and Charlotte will have to turn it around on the defensive side to contain them. The 49ers are giving up an average of 221 rushing yards per game which ranks last in Conference USA.
Another key for the 49ers to come out on top is to score points in the second half. In Charlotte's four victories, they have tallied 87 points in the second half, while in their four losses, they have only mustered two points off of safety against Georgia State in the second half.
"We are what we put on paper. We are what we put on film," said Healy. "We've had a hard time finishing games, and we have to do it out there in practice regularly. We have to lock in, execute. Fundamentally, we can't turn the football over."
Prediction: Charlotte wins it 28-17
The 49ers will get back on track this weekend as they will best the Owls by two scores. The team will cut down on turnovers and play clean football to control the game. Expect Charlotte running backs Calvin Camp and Shadrick Byrd to have big games against the Owls rushing defense that has given up 24 rushing touchdowns on the season.
How to Watch:
The game will get underway on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 3:30 p.m. inside the confines of Jerry Richardson Stadium. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN+, and you can also listen to it on ESPN 730.