Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert said he doesn’t like putting one game over another when looking at the schedule.
But he admits Charlotte’s next game will have added significance when the 49ers (2-5, 1-2) travel to Huntington, W.Va., to play Marshall in a Conference USA game Saturday.
Lambert’s first full-time job as a college coach began with the Thundering Herd in 1990. He spent six seasons there as a defensive ends and secondary coach, as Marshall won the 1992 NCAA Division I-AA title and played in three other national championship games.
“Obviously, this is a tough challenge this week going to Huntington,” Lambert said Tuesday. “I know what kind of place this is, having coached there six seasons. I know what kind of tradition they’ve built. They’ve won a ton of games in that stadium.”
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In addition to Lambert’s connections, Charlotte strength and conditioning director Jim Durning is a 1992 Marshall graduate. He was on Marshall’s staff there with Lambert.
The late Phil Ratliff, the 49ers’ offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator until his death in 2015, was a 1994 Marshall graduate and the team’s tight ends coach from 2006-2011.
On the Thundering Herd side, Mark Gale, the school’s assistant athletics director for football operations, began as an assistant coach at Marshall the same time as Lambert.
“We’ve got a lot of connections there. There will be some guys at the game that played for me when I was there,” Lambert said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for that program.
“It’ll be interesting. I’ve never been in the visitors’ locker room or on the visitors’ sideline – but we know what lies ahead of us. They’re a good football team and have a very skilled group.”
There were concerns that the start time for Saturday’s game at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium might be moved up after a fire damaged electrical wiring to one of the stadium’s light towers.
Lambert said that from reports he’s received from Marshall athletic officials, the game is still set for 5:30 p.m.
“They said things should be OK,” Lambert said. “They’ve had a structural engineer look at the tower, and an electrical engineer is supposed to look at the wiring later today.”
According to published reports, firefighters were called to the stadium Sunday night after portable restrooms and hand-washing stations caught fire. Flames from the units, located against a fence outside the stadium, spread to the light tower.
Huntington fire officials have ruled arson as the cause of the fire, and have offered a $5,000 reward for those with information leading to an arrest.
49ers’ injury report
Charlotte might have offensive lineman Jamal Covington back in the lineup Saturday, but the 49ers will still be without cornerback Terrance Winchester and outside linebacker Jordan Starnes.
Covington, a senior, has missed the past three games and five total while recovering from a right knee injury suffered last season. He re-injured it in the 49ers’ season opener at Louisville.
“We’ll see how he does this week,” Lambert said. “He’ll get a little work today (Tuesday) and see how he’s come back off that injury.”
Winchester separated his right shoulder against the Cardinals and re-injured it four weeks ago against Temple.
Starnes, Charlotte’s backup outside linebacker, suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ 27-26 C-USA loss to Florida International last Saturday.
About the Thundering Herd
▪ Marshall (2-5, 1-2 C-USA) is coming off its first conference win of the season, beating Florida Atlantic 27-21 last Saturday to snap a four-game losing streak.
▪ The Thundering Herd won 34-10 in last year’s game against Charlotte in Richardson Stadium.
▪ Marshall sophomore quarterback Chase Litton is third in the conference in passing yards per game (310) and total offense (294.6 yards). Cornerback Rodney Allen leads C-USA (and is tied for sixth nationally) in forced fumbles (three).