The Charlotte 49ers football team will open Conference USA play against the Middle Tennessee State Raiders. Both teams will be entering the game looking to get their first conference win of the season.
"All our eyes are on Middle Tennessee State," said Head Coach Will Healy. "They are a very good football team that we will kick off the conference slate against; we are super proud of how this team has responded so far."
The 49ers have not played the Raiders since 2019 due to the game's postponement last year. Charlotte won the previous meeting between the teams 34-20 in 2019, Charlotte's first win against Middle Tennessee State.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from the losses they took last week against two tough opponents. Charlotte fell short to Georgia State on the road 20-9. In their first conference game, the Raiders faced off against the University of Texas at San Antonio; the team fell short 27-13.
Scouting the Raiders:
The Raiders' starter, Quarterback Bailey Hockman, announced he was stepping away from football earlier in the week. Keep an eye on redshirt junior quarterback Chase Cunningham who will be the starter for the team for the rest of the season. Cunningham saw action last week where he had a solid performance throwing 150 yards on nine completions with two passing touchdowns.
Big news for Charlotte football's matchup with Middle Tennessee, who could be possibly missing their starting quarterback this week and beyond: https://t.co/uUbQrnrmxV— NT Sports (@NTimes_Sports) September 20, 2021
Cunningham will be throwing to junior receiver Izaiah Gathings and senior Jimmy Marshall. Both players will need to stand out if the Raiders hope to come out on top. Gathings had three receptions for 65 yards while Marshall had 51 yards and a touchdown on two catches, so expect both players to get ample targets in the contest.
The secondary for the Raiders has been stout, especially last week against the Roadrunners. Safeties Gregory Gate, Reed Blankenship and cornerback Quincy Riley all produced at a high level on the defensive side of the ball. Grate had a game-high 14 tackles, while Blankenship recorded 13 tackles in the loss. Riley made two interceptions in his return while returning one for 56 yards.
Scouting the 49ers:
Fifth-year quarterback Chris Reynolds has been stellar for the 49ers. After a lackluster performance against the Panthers of Georgia State, Reynolds will get back on track as he threw for 158 yards on only 13 completions with one touchdown. He will look to respond to their offensive struggle against the Raiders this week.
If the 49ers want to come out on top, they will need to run the ball efficiently. The trio of Calvin Camp, Shadrick Byrd and ChaVon McEachern will all need to have big nights for the team. The three backs combined for 386 yards on the ground so far this season.
Charlotte's defense has made some big plays when needed so far this season. Markees Watts, Tyler Murray and Jon Alexander will need to continue to make big plays for Charlotte's defense to be successful versus the Raiders. Last week, Watts had 13 total tackles to lead the team while Murray finished with ten tackles. Alexander was everywhere as he recorded six tackles and chased down Georgia State's Destin Coates to force a fumble.
"We will look to execute better this week," said Healy. "We need to learn from it and be hungry to get the job done in this game."
Prediction: 49ers defense holds the Raiders to under 17 points
The 49ers' defensive attack will look to disrupt the Raiders on offense. Middle Tennessee State has only scored over 14 points once this season against the Hawks of Monmouth.
Charlotte has multiple players who can cause havoc and will step up in the game's big moments. The 49ers' defense has been problematic for many teams this season as the team has given up a combined 30 points in the last two weeks. The team will look to continue this trend this week.
How to watch:
The 49ers will start their conference slate against the Raiders on Friday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network, and you can also listen to the game on ESPN 730. The matchup will be close as both squads are hungry to get back in the win column.