Three months ago, as the Charlotte football team prepared for its second season at the FBS level, coach Brad Lambert stressed to his players that November would be the most important month of the year.
After the 49ers (4-5, 3-2 Conference-USA) secured a 38-27 road win against Southern Mississippi, Lambert’s words ring true ahead of Saturday’s home game against Rice.
A victory against the Owls would match the school record for wins in a season. More importantly, Charlotte would enter its final two games needing just one win to become bowl eligible in its first year of eligibility.
“We’ve just got to keep balling,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Hasaan Klugh. “We have it in the back of our heads about a bowl game and whatnot, but we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”
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Behind their rushing offense, which ranks first in the conference with 198.2 yards per game, the 49ers have flipped the script from where they were a season ago.
Charlotte has doubled its win total from the 2015 campaign. After scoring 210 points all year, the 49ers have tallied 236 this season.
“They’ve already surpassed what we did last year from a win total, from an offensive total and things like that,” Lambert said. “But ultimately we just want to win this next game and put ourselves in position to play for something each and every week.”
Saluting the troops
As part of Charlotte’s Military Appreciation Weekend, which will begin Friday night with men’s and women’s basketball games at Halton Arena, Saturday’s football game will mark the 49ers’ Military Appreciation Day.
“When I showed up on the very front end of us becoming a D-I team, we really didn’t do much for Military Appreciation Day other than just say it was and do some things here and there,” said Air Force Capt. Stephen Evans. “I figured this would be a great time to balloon this thing and make it big for veterans and active duty folks.”
Among the multiple events planned for Saturday, Evans said Air Force ROTC cadets will march with the team to Richardson Stadium before the game and a ceremony will be held at halftime to commemorate prisoners of war and those who lost their lives in battle.
Charlotte will likely be without defensive back Alex Duncan on Saturday. A redshirt sophomore who sat out the 2015 season after transferring from Navy, he sustained a concussion in the win against Southern Miss.
Having primarily played on special teams, Duncan has registered 19 total tackles and an interception this year.
About the Owls
▪ Rice (1-8, 0-6) remains winless in conference play after falling to Florida Atlantic 42-25 Saturday. The Owls’ lone win was against Prairie View A&M on Oct. 22.
▪ In the 49ers’ 2015 season finale, Charlotte held Rice scoreless in the first half before allowing the Owls to score on five straight second-half possessions en route to a 27-7 defeat.
▪ Rice ranks third in C-USA and is tied with Wake Forest for 32nd nationally with 89 percent efficiency inside the red zone.