Two veteran members of the Charlotte football team say they’re seeing increased interest on campus in advance of the 49ers’ home opener Saturday.
“I’m seeing a lot more sparkle in people’s eyes,” said junior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, who had four tackles in Friday’s 23-20 victory against Georgia State, the 49ers’ first game as a Football Bowl Subdivision member.
“The students are definitely excited,” senior offensive lineman Danny Book said.
Charlotte opens its home season at noon Saturday against Presbyterian, which lost 26-7 in its first game Saturday at Miami (Ohio). The Blue Hose is the opponent on Charlotte’s schedule from the Football Championship Subdivision, in which the 49ers played their first two seasons.
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“I think there’s a lot more interest than before,” Ogunjobi said of student interest since Friday’s nationally televised victory in the Georgia Dome. “I think people are looking forward to this game.”
Students will find tickets a bit more difficult to come by this season. The university had allotted 7,500 seats at 15,314-seat Jerry Richardson Stadium for tickets the past two seasons, but officials say that total has been cut by “a couple thousand” this season. That, in turn, will allow more fans from the general public to buy football tickets.
Injury report: Coach Brad Lambert says the only major injury suffered in the opener was by center Thomas La Bianca, who left the game hobbling with turf toe.
“It’s day-to-day with him,” Lambert says. “Otherwise, it was nothing more than the typical bumps and bruises.”
Red-zone problems: Lambert said the 49ers’ performance inside the Georgia State 20 – just two field goals in four red-zone incursions – needs improvement.
“You don’t want to give away points down there,” he said.
Lambert said a bad snap that went over quarterback Matt Johnson’s head and was recovered by Georgia State was a problem he thinks the 49ers have solved. Johnson also threw an interception that Lambert credited to good defense by the Panthers.
Down the road? Lambert said he’s aware of the first-week performances by several teams that lie ahead on Charlotte’s schedule. Temple, which visits the 49ers on Oct. 2, beat Penn State 27-10. Marshall, which is in Charlotte on Halloween, defeated Purdue 41-31. Texas-San Antonio, which is in Charlotte on Nov. 14, totaled 525 yards against 22nd-ranked Arizona in a 42-32 loss.
“I’ve got enough worries about this week,” Lambert said with a laugh. “We’ve got to stay in the moment. There is plenty of time to worry about what’s down the road.”
He added, however, “It’s a good conference (Conference USA). We knew that when we signed up. And I told people that Temple had a very good team.”