The Charlotte 49ers have always enjoyed the home-field advantage from their fans at Richardson Stadium, but that record could be tested Saturday.
The 49ers (0-2) host N.C. A&T (2-0) in their home opener, with kickoff set for 6 p.m.
The visiting Aggies, ranked 20th this week in the national Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, have a big alumni group in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Coach Rod Broadway said he expects plenty of N.C. A&T’s fans in the stands.
“Aggie Nation always travels very well,” Broadway said Tuesday. “And with a big group of Aggies in Charlotte, we expect a huge crowd there Saturday.”
This marks the first time the 49ers, in their fifth season of football, have entertained an in-state opponent with a large alumni group. But that is changing. Appalachian State and its huge fan base will play at Richardson Stadium next Sept. 8, and in subsequent seasons Duke and North Carolina will pay the 49ers a visit .
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said it’s up to the 49ers to attract and energize their fans.
“You’ve got to give your crowd a reason to cheer,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of that last year, and it’s a priority with us this season.”
The 49ers finished 4-8 last season, but three of the victories were on the road.
“It’s really important for us to do well, so our fans can get loud,” Lambert said.
He said enthusiastic fans can be a big lift for the team, and Charlotte will need a lift against the Aggies. N.C. A&T has outscored its two opponents by a total of 101-3. And while the victories were against FCS member Gardner-Webb and Division II Mars Hill, Lambert said the Aggies are a powerful opponent.
“This is a very good team we’re playing,” he said of the school from Greensboro.
Starting defensive lineman Taylor Fain said the Aggies “have a very big offensive line. Those guys play tough. Their left tackle (senior Brandon Parker of Kannapolis) is considered an NFL prospect.”
Broadway said Saturday’s game gives his team a chance to knock off another Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. The Aggies beat Kent State 39-36 last season in four overtimes and would like another victory this year.
“We look at this as a big opportunity for us,” he said.
Lambert declined to get into the FBS-FCS discussion.
“The way we look at it,” he said, “is that every team has very good players. We have to prepare every week as hard as we can.”
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle