Over the past four years, players from Charlotte’s original recruiting class have experienced many firsts as they’ve watched the football program blossom.
But when the 49ers take the field Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium, a facility that was constructed from scratch before their eyes, 19 fifth-year seniors from that first class will encounter a last — their final home game.
“Just coming out of that tunnel for the last time as a Charlotte 49er is going to be very surreal,” said redshirt senior offensive lineman Jamal Covington. “To look at and see all of the hard work of our coaching staff and everyone involved with our program, (it will be) just seeing it all come together for the last time for our class.”
But the cloud of emotions hanging over the team ahead of senior day hasn’t distracted the 49ers from the task at hand.
After watching a 21-point lead slip away against Rice on Saturday, Charlotte (4-6, 3-3 Conference-USA) must win its final two games to become bowl eligible in its second season at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.
That starts with Saturday’s contest against Middle Tennessee, a team that defeated the 49ers 72-14 last season in their first Conference game.
“You look at the game last year, they beat us up pretty good,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “Hopefully that’s motivation for our guys to prepare hard this week and give ourselves a chance.”
If last year’s defeat isn’t enough to motivate the 49ers, a sign hanging on a door into the team meeting room might be.
It shows the logos for multiple bowl games. And in large font just below them are the words: “How bad do you want it?”
“They know what’s at stake,” Lambert said. “We’ve been building to this point — to be in November and to be playing for something that’s at the end of the season. We’ll continue on the track we’ve always continued on.”
49ers’ injury report
Covington and fellow offensive lineman Nate Davis are listed “day-to-day.” A back injury kept Covington out of last week’s game, which Davis left after sustaining a toe injury midway through the first half.
Meanwhile, Charlotte will welcome back sophomore defensive back Alex Duncan, who missed last week’s game with a concussion he suffered against Southern Mississippi on Nov. 5.
About the Blue Raiders
After starting the season 6-2, Middle Tennessee (6-4, 3-3) has dropped two straight games. During that stretch, the Blue Raiders turned the ball over eight times, which is what they had combined in their first eight games.
Middle Tennessee’s skid has coincided with an injury to starting quarterback Brent Stockstill, a redshirt sophomore who broke his collarbone in a 45-25 loss to Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 5. He ranks eighth among FBS players in passing yards per game (311.2) and is tied with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson for ninth in touchdown passes (27).
Senior running back I'tavius Mathers has rushed for 100 or more yards in six of his past eight games. He ranks 13th nationally in scoring and ninth in rushing touchdowns. Charlotte’s run defense has been one of its strengths, holding three of its past four opponents to under 100 yards rushing.