It’s now been nearly a full calendar year since the Charlotte 49ers have won a football game. The latest loss – 14-3 against Marshall at Richardson Stadium on Saturday – was Charlotte’s sixth this season and ninth in a row since beating Southern Mississippi on Nov. 5, 2016.
The 49ers (0-6, 0-2 Conference USA) were competitive against Marshall, as they were in their league opener against Florida International (a 30-29 loss). But now comes a game this Saturday at Western Kentucky (3-2, 1-1), last season’s C-USA champion.
First, here are five takeaways from Charlotte’s loss against Marshall, which figures to challenge Western Kentucky for this season’s East Division title:
Tailback Benny LeMay, who had averaged 138.3 yards in two of the 49ers’ previous three games, suffered a concussion and left the game in the third quarter. LeMay had been held in check to that point by Marshall’s defense, but he’d shown some promising signs early in the second half, including a run of 13 yards on the first play of the second half.
Lambert said LeMay will go into the concussion protocol this week and his status for Saturday is uncertain. If LeMay doesn’t play, Aaron McAllister (who picked up 34 yards on seven carries in relief of LeMay) and freshman Kameron Duncan would likely step in.
Where was the offense?
After gaining 504 yards in total offense against FIU (which also happened to be Charlotte’s first game under new offensive coordinator Greg Adkins), the 49ers couldn’t get anything going consistently against the Herd.
Lambert said that, like FIU, Marshall stacked its defense in the box in an attempt to stop Charlotte’s running game. The difference, Lambert said, was runners like LeMay and quarterback Hasaan Klugh were able to get past FIU’s safety who was playing close to the line of scrimmage, but were unable to do that against Marshall.
Trailing 14-3 early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers had a chance to make something happen early in the fourth quarter when Arthur Hart boomed a 59-yard punt out of bounds at the Herd 2. Then, still at the 2 and facing a third-and-10, running back Keion Davis caught a short pass from Chase Litton and, after juking 49ers defensive back Anthony Covington in the open field, went for 24 yards and a first down.
Although that drive ended with a lost fumble at the 49ers 44, Marshall had gotten out of some potentially serious field-position trouble from Hart’s punt.
Charlotte collapsed in the second half against FIU (the 49ers led 26-7 at halftime), but the defense rebounded against Marshall, which featured an impressive offense led by Litton and tight end Ryan Yurachek. Although the Herd gained 404 yards in total offense, Charlotte held down the damage by allowing Marshall into the red zone just twice and forcing two fumbles.
Safety Ben DeLuca had 17 tackles, a team record in its two seasons of playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Having a defensive back lead the team in tackles isn’t usually a good thing, however, because it means the ball carrier has made it well past the line of scrimmage.
49ers linebacker Jeff Gemmell was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter (he went helmet-to-helmet with Litton after Litton had slid). That means he will also miss the first half against Western Kentucky.
David Scott on Twitter: @davidscott14