Among the more pleasant surprises of the Charlotte 49ers’ first few seasons in Conference USA was a victory in 2016 at Southern Mississippi.
Now, a year after the 49ers upset the Eagles 38-27, Charlotte heads back to Hattiesburg, Miss., Saturday to do it again.
“We know what we’re getting into, we’ve been there,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said Tuesday. “But we’re going to have to try and play error-free football.”
Playing that kind of an error-free game is, of course, every coach’s hope. But Lambert knows how mistakes can hurt his team. Penalties and defensive lapses did in Charlotte (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) last week in a 35-21 loss against Middle Tennessee.
“We allow some big plays and then you throw in some penalties, and we’re kind of in the middle of a mess,” Lambert said.
There’s also little doubt that Southern Miss (6-4, 4-2) remembers losing to the 49ers last season. The Eagles beat Rice 43-34 last week to become bowl eligible for the third consecutive season.
“This team is a confident team,” said 49ers senior kick returner Chris Montgomery, who needs 10 yards to hit the 2,000-yard mark for his career. “We’re going down there to a place where we’ve won before. As long as we stay together, it can be the same outcome.”
A weak link for the 49ers has been the kicking game, where Nigel Macauley and Jackson Vansickle have combined to make just four-of-12 field goal attempts. Lambert said freshman Kyle Corbett, who kicked two extra points against Middle Tennessee after Macauley missed a 36-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, will be the kicker against Southern Miss.
“It’s a hard thing,” Lambert said. “You’ve got to keep encouraging the guys, because it’s not like they don’t have the ability to do it. It’s a confidence thing now. There’s no use going crazy on guys. But we’re missing field goals, not putting points on the board and we’ve got to keep things moving.”
Lambert said safety Ben DeLuca and defensive end Zach Duncan, who both suffered concussions against Middle Tennessee, are day-to-day this week.
About Southern Miss
▪ The Golden Eagles have one of the top running backs in C-USA in senior Ito Smith, who has rushed for 1,108 yards this season and scored nine touchdowns. Ito also caught 32 passes for 359 yards and two scores. Ito is the 10th player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush for more than 4,000 yards and have more than 1,000 yards receiving in his career.
▪ Receiver Korey Robertson has caught a pass in 23 consecutive games and had a career-best 159 yards against Rice.
▪ The Golden Eagles are second in the league in total defense (324.3 yards per game) and defensive back Tarvarius Moore averages 6.4 tackles.
▪ Former 49ers defensive lineman Brandon Banks was promoted to Washington’s active roster last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Banks, a rookie who joined Washington as a free agent, was in for 12 defensive plays and had a tackle against the Vikings. Banks also played on special teams in the game.
▪ The Charlotte men’s soccer team’s season ended Sunday in a 1-0 loss against Old Dominion in the C-USA tournament championship game. The 49ers (8-5-6) didn’t get an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2010.
▪ Joanne Aluka-White was promoted to associate head women’s basketball coach and assistant Nicole Woods has been named the program’s recruiting coordinator. The 49ers (1-1) play Rutgers on Thursday in Halton Arena.
David Scott: @davidscott14