The Charlotte 49ers are back in action against Florida Atlantic, with both teams coming in well-rested following a midseason bye week. Charlotte is 3-0 in nationally televised games this season and will look to complete the sweep of national TV games with a win against the Owls, one of the 49ers’ main competitors for the East Division crown.
WHEN DO THE CHARLOTTE 49ERS PLAY?
Who: Florida Atlantic (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) vs. Charlotte (4-2, 2-0 C-USA)
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21
Where: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. (15,300 Capacity)
Unless you have a Smart TV, you’ll need a streaming device such as Amazon Firestick, AppleTV, Roku or Chromecast. You can stream the game if your TV provider (YouTubeTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Comcast, etc.) carries CBSSN.
On-air announce crew: Jason Horowitz, play-by-play; Ross Tucker, analyst.
Radio: Learfield/IMG Network 730 The Game (Matt Swierad, play-by-play; Al Wallace, analyst; Bobby Rosinski, sideline).
Line: Florida Atlantic -7; O/U: 57
Uniform report: Green pants, green jerseys and gold chrome helmets.
WEATHER FORECAST FOR CHARLOTTE, N.C.
Cloudy skies with variable winds. The temperature will reach 80 degrees during the day and cool to 68 degrees at kickoff.
CHARLOTTE 49ERS FOOTBALL INJURY REPORT
Right tackle T.J. Moore (knee) is “probably doubtful.”
Left tackle Jaxon Hughes is questionable.
Defensive tackle Isaac Hampton is probable.
Defensive tackle Mikel Horton tore his Achilles in the offseason but made his return against Florida International two weeks ago. He is active.
49ERS VS. FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS: WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The 49ers hold a one-game lead in Conference USA’s East Division but face their first true contender in C-USA on Thursday night.
The Owls have arguably the most talented team in the conference. While their 3-3 record and a three-score loss to UAB in Week 6 doesn’t indicate that, Lane Kiffin and Willie Taggart have recruited extremely well in Boca Raton over the past five years. Florida Atlantic posted the best recruiting class in C-USA in three of the past five seasons.
Taggart’s team is led by Miami transfer quarterback N’Kosi Perry. Perry started nine games with the Hurricanes, passing for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns in a three-year stint. Since joining the Owls in 2021, Perry has completed 60% of his passes for 1,471 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has four touchdowns on the ground this season.
All four of Perry’s interceptions have come on the road, three of which were tossed against UAB in Week 6, leading to Taggart benching Perry in favor of Nick Tronti in the third quarter.
The real strength for the Owls is their depth at running back. Five tailbacks on the roster average 4.5 yards per carry or more, led by Johnny Ford and Malcolm Davidson. Ford leads the bunch with 56 carries for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Expect to see a heavy dose of the run as the 49ers have struggled to slow down a potent rushing attack this season.
The 49ers’ defense held Florida International to just 72 rushing yards in their last game, the lowest total of the season for Charlotte. The return of Mikel Horton on the interior defensive line helped, and Charlotte will need to match that performance to stay competitive.
Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds’ play through six weeks has garnered two Conference USA Player of the Week awards, not including his four-touchdown performance against FIU two weeks ago. Reynolds completed 75% of his passes for 314 yards and a touchdown against FAU in Boca last season.
The 49ers came up just short in the two-minute drill, as Victor Tucker was pushed out of bounds 9 yards from the game-winning touchdown. Charlotte held a 10-0 lead at halftime but let their foot off the gas and surrendered 21 third-quarter points as the Owls’ offense found life.
Charlotte practices that exact two-minute scenario with regularity at practice because it failed to convert last season.
This contest is going to come down to the turnover battle. FAU has allowed 19 sacks this season, including eight in its last loss. The 49ers have committed six turnovers this season, the fewest in C-USA. If Charlotte can get pressure on Perry and force him into bad decisions, an opportune 49ers’ defense could propel them to victory.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding the 49ers’ jump to the AAC, but Charlotte still has a big game against FAU on Thursday night.
Here my three keys to the game for the Niners. pic.twitter.com/Xv11F6xRZb
— Hunter Bailey (@Hunter_Bailey45) October 19, 2021
CHARLOTTE 49ERS PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Defensive back Jon Alexander is the 49ers’ highest-rated defender with a Pro Football Focus grade of 78.3. Alexander owns both of Charlotte’s interceptions this season, including the team’s only defensive touchdown on a 41-yard pick-six against FIU. Expect to see No. 1 tracking the ball sideline to sideline.
2. Wide receiver Victor Tucker has scored a touchdown in consecutive games and leads the team in catches with 31. Good things happen when Tucker has the ball in his hands, and the 49ers must scheme him open early and often in the screen game and with RPOs (run-pass-options). Tucker has posted a 100-yard receiving performance in the last two matchups against FAU.
3. Quarterback Chris Reynolds must continue his stellar play for the 49ers to secure their fifth win of the season and start 3-0 in conference play. Over the past three games, Reynolds completed 73% of his passes for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sixty-two rushing yards will push Reynolds over the 1,000-career-yard mark, becoming the sixth 49er to reach the milestone.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Quarterback N’Kosi Perry has struggled in road environments this season, completing just 48% of his passes for 271 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in the Owls’ last two road losses. Perry is a dynamic quarterback who can beat you through the air and on the ground. Expect him to attack a 49ers’ secondary that allows the second-most yards per completion in the nation at 15.06.
2. Running back Johnny Ford played his best game of the season against FIU, posting 102 yards and a score on the ground, as well as 91 yards and a touchdown through the air. Ford transferred to the Owls in 2021 following three seasons at South Florida where he totaled nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards. Expect to see swing passes and screens out of the backfield often.
3. Safety Teja Young leads the Owls’ secondary with a forced fumble and two interceptions on the season, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Young has 31 tackles on the season and posted 10 tackles and an interception in the season opener against Florida. Young made C-USA’s honorable mention list last season.
CHARLOTTE 49ERS FOOTBALL DEPTH CHART
Any position, whether it’s a starter or a backup, is listed with an —OR— designation.
QB — Chris Reynolds (James Foster)
RB — Calvin Camp—OR— Shadrick Byrd
WR — Victor Tucker (Keith Pearson Jr)
WR — Elijah Spencer (Cameron Dollar—OR— Tre’ Goode)
WR — Grant DuBose (Jairus Mack)
TE — Ryan Carriere (Taylor Thompson)
LT — Chibueze Nwanna (Jaxon Hughes)
LG — Panda Askew (Dejan Rasuo)
OC — Hunter Kelly (Jonny King)
RG — Ashton Gist (Dejan Rasuo)
RT — D’Mitri Emmanuel (Arabee Muslim)
EDGE — Markees Watts (Tyson Clawson)
DT — Mikel Horton (Bryan Wallace—OR—Siah Sa’o—OR— Joshua Bailey)
DT — Jalar Holley (Isaac Hampton—OR—Miguel Jackson—OR—Dez Morgan)
EDGE — Kofi Wardlow (Michael Kelly)
NICK — Tyler Murray (Derek Boykins)
MLB — Luke Martin (B.J. Turner)
WLB — Justin Whisenhunt (Prince Bemah)
CB — Geovante Howard—OR—Lance McMillan (Valerian Agbaw)
SS — Solomon Rogers (Matt Martinez—OR—Marcus Robitaille)
FS — Jon Alexander (Lacy Williams—OR—Comanche Francisco)
CB — Trey Creamer (Shedrick Ursery)
PK — Jonathan Cruz (Max Blistein)
KO — Jonathan Cruz (Max Blistein)
P — Bailey Rice (Ethan Torres)
LS — Cameron Lyons (Colby Garfield)
H — Chris Reynolds
KOR — Shadrick Byrd (Calvin Camp —OR—ChaVon McEachern)
PR — Cameron Dollar (Geovante Howard —OR— Victor Tucker)