The bye week has come and gone. Charlotte football is back this week, as the 49ers travel down south to play Southern Miss.
The last time Charlotte played was one of the biggest victories in the football program’s brief history. The 49ers defeated Marshall on the road in a nail-biting 27-24 finish. For the program, it was the second conference victory, the most since joining C-USA, and put Charlotte at .500 in conference play. But there was a bigger meaning to the game. Many players rejoiced with each other in memory of the late Phil Ratliff, former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator that passed away unexpectedly in 2015. Ratliff was a former standout player and coach at Marshall. The game ball was given to his wife, Jenni Ratliff.
With a week to let the Marshall victory to sink in, Charlotte is riding that momentum into the remainder of their schedule. If not for a missed field goal at the end of the FIU game, Charlotte could be on a three-game winning streak.
“I’ve made it a big point to the team that it’s easy to get caught up in doing good,” Brad Lambert said on the team’s recent performance. “You can’t get anywhere until you win the next one. We’re just trying to stay in the moment with our team and attack this day.”
Last season, Charlotte got throttled by the Golden Eagles, losing the game 44-10. Kickoff is set for 3:30 at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Niner Nation can find the game on American Sports Network and WCCB.
RETURN TO WORK
Coming off a bye week, Charlotte had an extra week to prepare for Southern Miss. The bye week can be tricky, though. Some teams respond negatively coming back from a week off as it could halt any momentum the team had before. For Charlotte, hopefully that is not the case, with the 49ers winning two of their last three games. But coach Lambert believes that team used the week off to their benefit.
“We had a good week, last week, working on our fundamentals and getting started on Southern Miss,” Lambert said. “It’s always a benefit to have the week off, mainly to get guys healthy.”
Speaking of healthy, two of Charlotte’s most experienced players return to the lineup this week. Senior defensive back Terrence Winchester is back after being injured most of the season with a separated shoulder. Winchester was tied with the lead for interceptions in the C-USA last season with four. That is good news, as the defense has gotten an interception in each of their last four games. Senior offensive lineman is back to full health as well, after being limited against Marshall. Covington, one of Charlotte’s top lineman, will look to open more holes for Kalif Phillips to run through, who has ran for 118 on average the last three games.
SOUTHERN MISS SCOUTING REPORT
The Golden Eagles of Southern Miss sit at 5-3 on the season. The Golden Eagles have prepared themselves for conference play by going against a pair of SEC opponents in LSU and a victory over Kentucky in week one.
Southern Miss is one of the more balanced teams in the conference, ranking fourth in scoring offense (34 points a game) and scoring defense (giving up 28 points a game). Golden Eagles are led by C-USA offensive player of the year Nick Mullens, who has 17 touchdowns on the season. Junior running back Ito Smith evens out the offense, rushing for 114 yards a game and nine touchdowns. The offense as a whole leads the conference in time of possession, as well. The defense gives up least amount of first downs and has the lowest conversion rate on third down against opponents, among C-USA.
But how does Charlotte win? Get on Southern Miss early. The Golden Eagles are outscored 80-62 in the first quarter. With a week off to get healthy and prepare an extra week, the 49ers could find some holes in the Southern Miss defense. Not to mention, the game is in Hattiesburg, which is a plus as Charlotte has played much better on the road this season.