|Charlotte 49ers on the brink of school football history|
|Bowl eligibility with win vs. Marshall|
|Published Friday, November 22, 2019 12:25 pm|
|FILE PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Charlotte 49ers running back Chris McAllister is expected to take the majority of carries Saturday against Marshall. McAllister is stepping in for Benny LeMay, who has been limited with Achilles soreness.|
The Charlotte 49ers are on the brink of program history.
A win against Marshall (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) on Nov. 23 in Charlotte’s (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) final home game of the regular season would secure bowl eligibility for the first time. Charlotte’s three-game conference win streak is also a first. They conclude the regular season at Old Dominion (1-9, 0-6 C-USA) on Nov. 30.
“I think everybody is dialed in and they know what the task is at hand,” sophomore quarterback Chris Reynolds said. “I feel like we’re prepared for it.”
It has already been a historic season for the 49ers under first-time FBS head coach Will Healy. They matched the program record for wins in a season and produced their best run through the first 10 games. Charlotte has scored 25-plus points in each win.
“We get to play for something in November, and that’s what everybody wants to do,” Reynolds said.
In the absence of senior running back Benny LeMay (Achilles), Reynolds has been asked to open up as a runner. Over their last three wins, he has rushed for 290 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-high 103 yards against Middle Tennessee. He has thrown for 882 yards and six touchdowns this month.
Without LeMay, junior running back Aaron McAllister becomes the feature back.
“[LeMay] just doesn’t feel great about moving around on it,” Healy said. “To me, our mentality is Aaron McAllister better be ready to play and if Benny can play, it’s a bonus. We’re not planning for it.”
On the defensive end, defensive ends senior Alex Highsmith and sophomore Markees Watts lead the team with 8.5 and 7.5 sacks respectively. Charlotte set a single-season record with 27 sacks, which ranks 31st nationally.
Charlotte is coming off their second bye of the season, something Healy described as “rare.” However, he feels they are better prepared coming out of the second bye compared to the first, after which they went on a two-game losing streak.
“We didn’t play great after the first one, and felt like we tried to get too much in,” Healy said. “We’re a little bit more fresh than what we were.”
With the Thundering Herd comes inaugural 49ers coach Brad Lambert, whom Charlotte fired last season. Lambert, now Marshall’s defensive coordinator, took the 49ers to a 5-7 record, 4-4 C-USA in 2018, a rebound from a program-low 1-11 season in 2017.
“I know how hard it is to win games in this league,” Healy said. “We’ve learned that the hard way this year, but I think if anything, I’m sure he doesn’t have any regrets, because he developed true relationships with these guys and these players. They respect him. They loved playing for him. I think he did a tremendous job of starting a program. Our job has been to try to take it to the next level.”
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