By Jim Morrison and Lee Kuveikis
CHARLOTTE – After dropping their fifth-consecutive game to open the season, 30-29, at Florida International University last week, the Charlotte 49ers football team returns home to Jerry Richardson Stadium this Saturday evening for a Conference USA match up against red-hot Marshall. Kickoff is slated for 6 PM.
Charlotte (0-5, 0-1 in Conference USA) knocked off Marshall, 27-24, a year ago down in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd (3-1) will be seeking their third-consecutive victory as well as revenge for last year’s loss to the 49ers as they open their Conference USA season after knocking off Cincinnati, 38-21, on the road last week.
Marshall is led by head coach Doc Holliday, who is in his eighth season at the helm of the Thundering Herd. Holliday has a 53-37 career record in his first college head coaching stint.
Charlotte fifth-year head coach Brad Lambert, who is the only head coach the 49ers program has known since their inception, brings a record of 16-35 record into the contest.
Lambert, who came to Charlotte for his first head coaching job after 11 years as an assistant at Wake Forest, had his first college assistant coaching position at Marshall under head coach Jim Donnan from 1990 to 1995. While at Marshall, Lambert participated in four NCAA Division 1-AA Football Championship Games with the Thundering Herd winning the 1992 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship.
Marshall has a long, storied football tradition. The November 14, 1970, plane crash that killed all 75 passengers on board, including 37 players of the Thundering Herd football team, five coaches and many fans, boosters and families, is well documented in the movie We Are Marshall, starring Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox.
Topping the list of 21 All Americans who have played at Marshall are future NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss, three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Brown and former New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington.
Players to watch for the Thundering Herd on Saturday are junior quarterback Chase Litton, who is completing 60% of his passes (90-of-150) for 1,014 yards with eight touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Red-shirt junior wide receiver Tyre Brady is Litton’s top target thus far with 23 receptions for 407 yards. Junior wide out Marcel Williams has 22 catches for 212 yards.
Senior tight end Ryan Yuracheck, who is perhaps the best tight end in Conference USA this season, leads the Marshall receiving corps with three touchdowns grabs. Yuracheck, a Myrtle Beach, South Caroilna native, is on the Mackey Award, Wuerffel Trophy and American Football Coaches Association watch lists. Yuracheck was also named to Conference USA’s preseason team.
For Charlotte, sophomore running back Benny LeMay is averaging 138.3 yards per game rushing over the last three contests with two games over 150 yards.
Red-shirt junior quarterback Hasaan Klugh continues to be the mainstay of the 49er offense. Klugh, who threw for three touchdowns against North Carolina A&T back on September 16th, ran for school-record three touchdowns at Florida International last week. The Concord. NC has accounted for all 10 Charlotte touchdowns this season (five passing and five rushing).
49ers KEYS TO VICTORY
- Running game: Charlotte has gotten its running game going the past three weeks with LeMay & Klugh leading the way. The 49ers are going to have to once again establish a consistent running game against Marshall on Saturday night while containing Thundering Herd red-shirt junior running back Keion Davis, who is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
- Third down efficiency and big plays for loss: Two things that have plagued the 49ers all season are converting on third downs and negative plays. Marshall’s defense is averaging 6.8 tackles for loss per game and has limited opponents to converting their third downs at a 34 % (19-of-56) clip. Charlotte must improve in both areas on Saturday night against the Thundering Herd.
- Play two halves of football: While the 49ers offense played well in the first half last week with new offensive coordinator Greg Adkins calling the plays, they only managed a field goal in the second half and watched FIU comeback from a 26-14 halftime deficit for a victory. Football is a 60-minute game not 30.
- Kicking game: Kicking has been an Achilles heel for the 49ers the past two seasons and bit them again against FIU. Charlotte is simply not good enough to be missing extra-points or makeable field goals.
- WHATEVER IT TAKES: For the sixth consecutive week Charlotte is seeking its first win of the 2017 season. Urgency! Urgency! Urgency! That’s the word of the night on Saturday for Charlotte. Whatever it takes to get it done.
STATS TO NOTE
(25) Game streak of touchdown passes for Chase Litton
(55) Passing touchdowns for Chase Litton on his career, sixth in program history
(42) Wins for Marshall when scoring first: Record is 42-7 when they strike first
(30) Wins in the last 30 games when they have the lead at half
(1) Tackle needed by Ben DeLuca to become 12th 49er to reach 100 in his career.
(2) 100-yard rushers for the 49ers at FIU (Benny LeMay 178 yards; Klugh 107 yards)
(5) Recivers that have caught one of Klugh’s five touchdown passes
(504) Yards of offense at FIU, the second most by the 49ers in an FBS game
AREAS OF INTEREST
Scoring Offense: Marshall 27.5 (79th) Charlotte 14.8 (122nd)
Scoring Defense: Marshall 21.0 (39th) Charlotte 34.4 (108th)
Total Offense: Marshall 366.3 (93rd) Charlotte 332.2 (108th)
Total Defense: Marshall 380.5 (68th) Charlotte 430.0 (100th)
Rushing Offense: Marshall 112.8 (110th) Charlotte 197.0 (43rd)
Rushing Defense: Marshall 138.8 (59th) Charlotte 188.8 (94th)
Passing Offense: Marshall 253.5 (52nd) Charlotte 135.2 (122nd)
Passing Defense: Marshall 241.8 (84th) Charlotte 241.2 (81st)
ROSTER OF INTEREST
Chase Litton: Junior (Passed for 233 Yards against Cincinnati)
Benny LeMay: Sophomore (Rushed for 178 Yards against FIU)
EYES & EARS
When: Saturday Evening, 6 pm Kickoff
Where: Jerry Richardson Stadium (15,314)
Records: Marshall (3-1); Charlotte (0-5)
Radio: Charlotte IMG Network
COACHING MATCH UP
Marshall: Doc Holliday 8th Season (55-38)
Charlotte: Brad Lambert 5th Season (16-35)