Now that the Charlotte 49ers have concluded their nonconference schedule, nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi says their real schedule – and the pressure that goes with it – begins this week.
The reason? The 49ers (1-3) open their Conference USA schedule Saturday night, hosting Old Dominion (2-2, 1-0) at Richardson Stadium. Game time is 6 p.m.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” said Ogunjobi, a redshirt senior. “This is a big game for us, so we really need this win so we can realize the goals that we’re trying to see this season.”
Last season, Charlotte’s first in C-USA, the 49ers went 2-10 overall and 0-8 in conference games.
But their league opener at Old Dominion was one of two conference games Charlotte coach Brad Lambert admitted the 49ers let slip away.
Charlotte led by five points late in the fourth quarter, but the Monarchs scored in the final two minutes to win 37-34.
“We had a chance to close it out, and we didn’t,” Lambert said. “I’ve even looked at the decisions I made during the game.
“Our guys will look at that film and study it, and think about how they can get better, or what they can do in critical situations to help us win the game.”
Charlotte ended this season’s nonconference schedule with back-to-back losses – to Eastern Michigan, 37-19, at home on Sept. 17; and to Temple, 48-20, in Philadelphia last week.
“I always kinda look at it as three four-game seasons,” Lambert said. “So these next four, how are we going to look in these next four games? That’s the important thing from here on out.”
Charlotte will be without starters Jamal Covington and Terrance Winchester against Old Dominion, as both re-aggravated injuries.
Covington, the 49ers’ starting left tackle, re-injured a right knee in last week’s game at Temple. He will be replaced by redshirt sophomore Chris Brown.
One of Charlotte’s starting cornerbacks, Winchester re-injured his right shoulder against the Owls. He will be replaced by redshirt junior Anthony Covington.
“Both of them are really hurting,” Lambert said. “They want to be out there, since it’s their last year. It’s frustrating for them and frustrating for everybody. But a part of life you can’t control is getting hurt. You’ve got to deal with it.”
Covington, a redshirt senior, originally injured the knee last season and missed four games, then tweaked it again in the season opener at Louisville. He’d returned to the lineup last week.
Winchester, a redshirt senior, separated his shoulder in the loss to Louisville. He returned to limited action two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan and was the starter last week.
About the Monarchs
▪ Old Dominion opened its Conference USA schedule last week with a 33-19 win against Texas-San Antonio 33-19. It’s the Monarchs’ largest margin of victory in a C-USA game since joining the league in 2014
▪ Old Dominion returned 17 starters (nine offense, eight defense) from last year’s 5-7 team, and was ranked by college football analyst Phil Steele as the nation’s 17th most-experienced team this season.
▪ The Monarchs lead C-USA in turnover ratio (plus-6), fewest penalties (47.8 yards per game) and punt-return average (14.6 yards per), and are tied for the lead in sacks (12). They’re also second in rushing offense at 189.8 yards per game.