49ers vs. Dukes in 100 words
The 49ers face one of their tougher tests of the season in Harrisonburg. ... The Dukes won the 2004 FCS championship and have made the playoffs five other times since 1999. ... This is Charlotte’s only night game. … James Madison is unbeaten at home; its only loss came against Akron (35-33), which nearly upset Michigan last week. … This game for Charlotte replaces the one against Old Dominion originally scheduled for Nov. 16 that was canceled by the 49ers. … James Madison expanded Bridgeforth Stadium to 24,877 seats in 2011 but has yet to fill it this season.
By the numbers
5: Charlotte QB Matt Johnson’s national ranking in passing yardage (873).
124: Rushing plays by the 49ers offense this season.
124: Passing plays by the 49ers offense this season.
Scouting James Madison
• Stopping running back Dae’Quan Scott is a top priority for the 49ers. Scott has rushed for 417 yards (139.0 per game) and three touchdowns. He also has caught a pass for a TD and returned a punt for a score.
• Senior linebacker Stephon Robertson is a preseason All-American who has led the Dukes in tackles eight of the last 13 games.
• Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong has just three career starts but threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns against Akron.
• James Madison’s offensive line has experience and size (three seniors, two juniors), including senior center Matt Williams (6-3, 290) and senior right tackle Josh Wells (6-6, 310), who have both started 13 consecutive games.
Matchup to watch
Charlotte QB Matt Johnson vs. James Madison FS Dean Marlowe
There’s no doubt that James Madison’s secondary paid close attention to what went wrong for Johnson last week, when he threw five interceptions against N.C. Central. Marlowe, a preseason All-American, will patrol the back of the secondary, where he already has an interception. But Marlowe and his teammates also know Johnson threw for 335 yards against the Eagles out of Charlotte’s spread, no-huddle offense.
• Although Charlotte had seven turnovers against N.C. Central, the 49ers also have recovered seven fumbles and forced 12 turnovers, both of which rank first nationally.
• Charlotte might have a disadvantage in talent Saturday, but the experience gap is wide, too. The 49ers have averaged 14.3 freshmen in their starting lineup through three games, their opposition 2.7. James Madison probably will start three redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen Saturday.
• The 49ers are getting solid production from the running back position, where redshirt freshman Alan Barnwell and true freshman Kalif Phillips are splitting time and combining for 112 yards per game. Barnwell has started all three games and rushed for 164 (5.0-yard average) and a touchdown. Phillips has rushed for 172 yards (5.1 average) and a TD. Phillips had 85 yards against N.C. Central.
• James Madison freshman linebacker Gage Steele has one of college football’s best names.
3 and out: With junior offensive tackle Daniel Blitch
Q. You’re one of the few 49ers to have played a road game in college. What will you tell your young teammates about how different Saturday will be?
A. I need to make sure I’m on point with them. I believe all our guys will be able to stay focused and understand what’s on the line. We’ve prepared this week so that (playing on the road) won’t affect them as much as they think it might.
Q. How do you treat a game like this?
A. It’s a business trip, no matter where we’re at. We’re not going up there for sightseeing of any kind.
Q. James Madison figures to be one of the toughest teams you play. What’s the attitude for you heading into the game?
A. There’s not a game that I don’t go into thinking we’re not going to win. I just go in and play as hard as I can and do as much as I can do. I’m not going into the game and show fear of who we’re playing. Everybody is a respectable opponent. It doesn’t matter where they’re ranked. All three of our opponents have been respectable, and I treat them the same.
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