Charlotte football is rolling. The 49ers are making a statement in the Conference USA, defeating Southern Miss in Hattiesburg to earn their second-straight victory.
Unlike their previous two wins, Charlotte beat Southern Miss in convincing fashion, 38-27. Kalif Phillps carried the 49ers, running for a season-high 183 yards, breaking off a 72-yard run in the process. Phillps didn’t find the endzone, but Charlotte managed to rush for three touchdowns against the Golden Eagle defense. Hassan Klugh had another impressive performance, passing and rushing for a touchdown. Now, all of a sudden, Charlotte is beginning to look for real.
“This is an unbelievable place to come down here and play,” head coach Brad Lambert said on the win. “This is a good program and this is huge for us to come in here and get this win.”
Playing away from the Queen City has been sweet to Charlotte, but the 49ers return to Jerry Richardson to play Rice. Charlotte only has one win at home, opposed to their three wins away. Last season, Rice defeated Charlotte 27-7.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. It is the first early kickoff of the season for Charlotte.
EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE
The Charlotte running game is taking over. That’s not to discredit the production Klugh has given the Charlotte offense. It’s clear that running the ball has become the identity for the offense. In fact, Charlotte is first in rushing in the C-USA, averaging 198 yards a game.
Phillps is on a hot streak as of late, garnering 20-plus carries and rushing for over 100 yards three of the last four games. If Phillps would have gained one more yard against FIU, then it would be a four-game streak with 100 yards rushing. The senior is on the way to his second 1,000 yard rushing year, sitting at 741 yards so far.
But it’s not only Phillps. True freshman Robert Washington is keeping the engine rolling while Phillps rests. With Phillps injured earlier in the season, Washington had his number called. And the freshman responded. Washington ran for 120 yards against Eastern Michigan and had two touchdowns against Elon. Since then, Washington playing time has been cut, but he remains ready when his number is called. Last week agaisnt Southern Miss, Washington had 94 yards and a touchdown on six carries. That’s what you call making the most of your opportunity.
Not only is the running backs tearing up defenses, but Klugh is an added dimesion in the running game. Klugh has ran for a touchdown in each game he has started. When Klugh isn’t able to move the ball down the field through the air, he still makes defenses honest with his legs.
For Charlotte, stick with what works. Running the ball is the simplest way to move the ball. The passing game has taken over football, but there is nothing wrong with a little ground and pound.
RICE SCOUTING REPORT
The Rice Owls, coached by David Bailiff, sit at 1-8 on the season. Their lone win of the season came against Prairie View A&M. That doesn’t mean Charlotte can take it easy though. While Rice doesn’t excel in any particular area, it’s games like this that can be labeled as a trap.
Rice is led by redshirt senior Tyler Stehling at quarterback, who has 11 touchdowns on the season. But Stehling isn’t the safest with the ball, with six interceptions as well. Also, Rice has Samuel Stewart and two other players with at least three rushing touchdowns, so the Owls have options at running back. But defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte’s best defensive player in program history, has been playing at an extremely high level this season, recently having the best run-stop percentage of any interior defensive lineman in college football.
The good news is that Rice sits dead last in rushing defense in C-USA, giving up 223 yards a game. There could be a field day for Phillps and company at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Also, Rice gives up 40 points a game, a mark the 49ers have yet to reach this season.
This is a winnable game for Charlotte. The 49ers have shown they can do it on the road, winning three in a row, and it’s time to show that they can defend home turf as well. With a win, Charlotte can move within one game from being bowl eligible.