Sometimes a gamble works on the football field. Then there are the times when it doesn’t.
Two weeks after the Charlotte 49ers won their first game of the season on a high-risk, high-reward play against Ala.-Birmingham, another chancy call fell flat in a Conference USA loss against Old Dominion.
On Saturday, the 49ers, trailing 6-0 and whose offense had been stuck in neutral for much of the game, had forced the Monarchs to punt from the ODU 32 with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left.
Charlotte coach Brad Lambert sensed a vulnerability, knowing the Monarchs had two punts blocked in their previous game against North Texas. So he elected to try and block this one, providing what he hoped would a game-changing moment for his team.
That kind of thinking had worked for Lambert against UAB, when the 49ers got their winning points from a halfback option pass on a two-point conversion in overtime.
But, instead of breaking through and blocking the ODU punt and potentially getting the ball deep in Monarchs territory, the 49ers were called for a personal foul when a Charlotte player barely missed the ball and instead ran into punter Bailey Cate.
“Six inches to the right, that’s all it was,” Lambert said Tuesday. “That’s always a tough call, but we had a good opportunity to take a shot at changing the game right there.”
The penalty extended the Monarchs’ drive and although they ended up punting again, the chance for a punchless 49ers offense to get the ball in the red zone had passed. ODU would go on to win 6-0.
“It’s a risk and we took it,” said Lambert, whose team fell to 1-8 overall, 1-4 in the league. “Six inches to the right and we might end up having the ball for the offense inside the 10. He just missed it. You’ve got to finish, got to make those plays and make the most of those opportunities.”
Klugh to play
49ers quarterback Hasaan Klugh, who injured his ankle last week against Old Dominion, will play Saturday against Middle Tennessee State (4-5, 2-3), coach Brad Lambert said Tuesday,.
Klugh, who has accounted for all 13 Charlotte touchdowns in the games he’s played this season, left the ODU game after being tackled on a quarterback keeper in the fourth quarter.
“I thought on the field it was a little worse than it is,” Lambert said. “But he’s practiced and he’ll play.”
Strong defense continues
The 49ers haven’t allowed a touchdown in more than six quarters of regulation play, a stretch of 19 drives. The total yards they allowed against UAB (344) and ODU (326) are the lowest Charlotte has given up against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents this season.
About Middle Tennessee State
▪ Junior quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to the Blue Raiders last week against Texas-El Paso after missing six games with a shoulder injury. Stockstill, son of Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill, needs 104 yards to become the school’s career passing leader. He’s at 7,904 and counting and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 19 consecutive games.
▪ The Blue Raiders’ Ty Lee is among the league’s top receivers, with 49 catches for 611 yards and four touchdowns.
▪ Middle Tennessee’s defense ranked fourth in C-USA, allowing 331.6 yards per game. Linebacker Khalil Brooks is 24th nationally in tackles-for-loss (12.0) and 22nd in sacks (6.5).
David Scott: @davidscott14