The UTSA Roadrunners (1-8, 1-4) will travel east as they face the Charlotte 49ers (2-7, 0-6) in a battle of struggling Conference USA teams Saturday afternoon. With Charlotte recently making the move to play at the FBS level, this will be the first time that the two programs will have met in their respective histories.
UTSA is coming off their fourth straight loss overall and their fourth of the season by seven points or less as they lost 36-31 at home to Old Dominion last week. Charlotte has dropped seven in a row after their 2-0 start as they were dumped 48-31 on the road by Florida International. Kickoff from McColl-Richardson Field in Charlotte, North Carolina is scheduled for 2:00 pm ET and the game will not be nationally televised. UTSA is currently a 5 point favorite in the contest with the over/under set at 55.5 points.
UTSA led 14-3 after one quarter, trailed 23-14 in the third and 30-21 in the fourth before rallying to take a 31-30 edge. The problem was, the Roadrunners couldn’t come up with a stop and a 40 yard TD pass from David Washington to Johnathan Duhart with 5:45 to play gave the Monarchs the win. UTSA was outgained 548-424, gave up 30 first downs while picking up 24 of their own and allowed Old Dominion to control the clock as the Monarchs held the ball for 35:49 to the Roadrunners’ 24:11 in the contest.
The Roadrunners average 207.3 yards per game (tied for 84th in the nation) through the air and 156.3 yards on the ground (85th in the nation) this season. UTSA puts up 22.2 points per game and they’ve struggled defensively as they are 104th in scoring defense by allowing 34.7 points per game. Blake Bogenschutz is the starter at quarterback; he’s hit 59.1 percent of his passes for 897 yards with four touchdowns and four picks. Bogenschutz missed the last four games with a concussion and is questionable at best in this one. That means Dalton Sturm (83 of 142, 899 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT, 296 rushing yards) is a real possibility of making his fifth straight start. Jarveon Williams is the lead back in the run game as he has 132 carries for 693 yards and five scores while Jalen Rhodes (50 carries, 220 yards, 2 TD) is the second back in the system. In the passing game, Bogenschutz and Sturm can look for David Morgan II (team high 38 receptions, team high 450 yards, 4 TD), Aaron Grubb (33 grabs, 283 yards, 2 TD) and Kerry Thomas Jr. (37 catches, 406 yards, 2 TD) to move the sticks. Daniel Portillo has struggled in the kicking game as he is 21 of 24 on extra points but just 9 of 15 on field goals this year; he’s 0 for 5 from 40 to 49 yards though he hit a 51 yard kick.
Charlotte put up some points against Florida International but was lit up defensively, which cost them dearly. The 49ers were in a 34-10 hole as the half before managing to make the score slightly more respectable in the second half. Charlotte was outgained 439-395 despite picking up 27 first downs to Florida International’s 24. The time of possession was nearly a wash as the Golden Panthers held a 30:40 to 29:20 edge and both teams turned the ball over once. The problem for Charlotte is that their turnover was a pick six; the 49ers also had a punt blocked for a score in the opening two minutes of the game.
The 49ers are going through growing pains offensively as they are 110th in passing (177.9 yards) and 64th in rushing (172.2 yards) offense per contest. Charlotte is averaging 18.4 points per game and they are just 109th in scoring defense by allowing 35.6 points per contest. Three quarterbacks have seen action for the 49ers; they have combined to complete 52.9 percent of their passes for 1,601 yards while averaging 5.2 yards per pass attempt with seven touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Lee McNeill has seen the most reps at quarterback but he’s struggled to complete 91 of 178 passes for 825 yards with one touchdown and 10 picks. The combination of Matt Johnson (40 of 72, 583 yards, 4 TD, 7 INT, 207 rushing yards, TD) and Brooks Barden (25 of 45, 193 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) isn’t setting the world on fire either. Kalif Phillips is the team’s leading rusher with 186 carries for 951 yards and five scores. Andrew Buie is the second back in the system; he contributes 82 carries for 324 yards plus a touchdown. Austin Duke is the team’s top receiver with 44 receptions for 492 yards and five scores; Trent Bostick (22 catches, 268 yards, TD), T.L. Ford (19 receptions, 187 yards) and Workpeh Kola (15 grabs, 144 yards) are the other targets with more than 12 receptions on the year. Blake Brewer has booted all 19 extra points and 11 of 19 field goal attempts on the year with a long of 45 yards; he’s missed one between 20 and 29 yards while misfiring twice between 30 and 39 yards.
UTSA is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 conference games, 3-9 ATS in their last 12 after an ATS loss, 3-12 ATS in their last 15 after a straight up loss and 1-4 ATS in their last five in November.
This is more of a gut call than anything: UTSA has shown a proclivity to blow close games by failing to make plays late. Charlotte is due for a win and they’re playing at home here; the 49ers actually got a capable offensive performance last week out of their young team. It will be a tight game but in the end, the 49ers find a way to pull it out and get back in the W column.