Football

Have Charlotte 49ers learned a lesson in rematch with UMass?

Victor Tucker (9) caught two touchdown passes Saturday in the Charlotte 49ers’ 56-41 loss to Appalachian State.
Victor Tucker (9) caught two touchdown passes Saturday in the Charlotte 49ers’ 56-41 loss to Appalachian State. AP

First-year Charlotte 49ers coach Will Healy obviously wasn’t around when Massachusetts jumped on the 49ers early in their game last season, on the way to a 49-31 Minutemen victory in Amherst, Mass.

But Healy knows what happened.

“They blew us out of the water,” Healy said Tuesday of UMass, the 49ers’ opponent Saturday at Richardson Stadium.

Last year, the Minutemen jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, a margin Charlotte never had any hope of overcoming.

But lessons should be learned from those kinds of games, and Healy said he saw evidence of that Saturday, when the 49ers quickly found themselves down by a touchdown against explosive and heavily favored Appalachian State. Charlotte didn’t let the game get out of hand as the Mountaineers would win 56-41.

“When you look at the (Appalachian) game, we’re a different team than a year ago,” said Healy, who was coaching at Austin Peay in 2018. “Obviously these guys are different. The way they responded on Saturday was totally different than the way they responded a year ago.

“You’re constantly convincing your guys that they are changing for the better. You’re pointing out that they are different and how they handle adversity is important. It’s a growing process when you’re facing adversity again. You always draw back on the way you responded the first time. Now it’s how well we respond to adversity and now that’s the standard. We don’t expect anything different.”

49ers cornerback Marquell Osborne, a transfer from Tennessee, said there was a sense of calm after Appalachian’s Darrynton Evans scored on an 87-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

“The reaction was surprise, but we kept our heads up and knew it was just a mis-key,” Osborne said. “So we went and talked about it on the sideline and fixed it on the board. It was just a missed communication.”

That kind of focused attitude served Charlotte well for the remainder of the game.

“I thought we wanted it more than they did,” said Healy. “I thought a lot of times we played harder than they did. I don’t know about our execution or if we played smarter than they did.”

Scouting UMass

The Minutemen (0-2) have lost their first two games by allowing an average of 46.5 points — 48-21 to Rutgers and 45-20 to the Football Championship’s Southern Illinois.

First-year coach Walt Bell, 35, is one of the four youngest coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Healy, 33, is one of those who is younger. Bell was Florida State’s offensive coordinator in 2018.

The independent Minutemen lost 13 starters from a team that beat Charlotte 49-31 last season in Amherst, Mass., including receiver Andy Isabella, who led the nation in receiving yards (1,698), 85 of them coming against the 49ers.

The Minutemen are led by tailback Bilal Ally, who averages 77.5 yards per game and has a touchdown. Junior linebacker Cole McCubrey has 22 total tackles. Senior kicker Cooper Garcia has only missed one extra point (42-of-43) in his career.

49ers notes

Charlotte will be without senior safety Ben DeLuca (shoulder) and senior defensive end Tyriq Harris (lower back) for the UMass game. DeLuca hurt the shoulder in the first half against Appalachian State. Harris has missed Charlotte’s first two games.

After two high-scoring games, the 49ers lead Conference USA in scoring (45.0 points per game), rushing offense (276 yards) and total offense (517 yards). Tailback Benny LeMay leads the league in scoring (30 points), rushing touchdowns (four) and total touchdowns (five). LeMay is also second in C-USA in rushing (119 yards per game) and third in all-purpose yards (137).

Senior Jackson Vansickle handled the kickoff duties against Appalachian ahead of sophomore Jonathan Cruz. Healy said Vansickle’s ability to kick directionally against the Mountaineers was behind that decision.

Senior linebacker Anthony Butler has left the 49ers program and said on Twitter he will transfer. Butler had played sparingly in the first two games, with three total tackles in the season opener against Gardner-Webb.

Six 49ers have caught at least four passes this season. The group is led by true freshman Macaleus Elder and sophomore Cam Dollar, who both have nine. Sophomore Victor Tucker, the team’s leading receiver from 2018 who had just one catch against Gardner-Webb, had six receptions against Appalachian for 90 yards and two touchdowns. In both of his scoring plays, Tucker went over a Mountaineers’ defender in the end zone to catch.

A young 49er

Towner Lewis, an 11-year-old from Charlotte, joined the 49ers team during a “signing” ceremony Tuesday.

Team Impact, a Boston-based nonprofit that connects children with serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, brought Towner and the 49ers together.

Towner has Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder. He picked the 49ers over Clemson (his parents have connections to the Tigers).

Asked who will win the game on Sept 21 between Charlotte and Clemson, Towner replied: “I think this team will.”

New tennis coach

Kyle Bailey, associate head tennis coach at South Carolina, is the 49ers’ new head tennis coach. Bailey replaces Jeremy Feldman, who resigned in August. Feldman is named in a lawsuit by a former player that alleges he was kicked off the team after Feldman fabricated an accusation of the player bullying a teammate.

David Scott: @davidscott14
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