Running game emerging as strength for Niners

The 49ers have been rushing the ball very well led by LeMay and Klugh

| October 1, 2017

Benny Lemay runs the ball against N.C. A&T. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Halfway through the third quarter of Saturday’s game versus the Florida International Golden Panthers, the Charlotte football team appeared they were on there way to their first victory of the year, leading by a score of 29-14. Quarterback Hasaan Klugh was having his best game of the season, running for three touchdowns and throwing another, and running back Benny LeMay was continuing to turn heads with an absolute stellar performance. The elusive first win was so close it could nearly be tasted.

In fact, at one point ESPN’s Win Probability gave the Niners an 87.9 percent chance of winning, when they leaped out to an impressive 26-7 lead with 2:51 left in the second half. Probability was in the 49ers’ favor to prevail, until that number gradually got smaller and smaller, and Florida International mounted a jaw-dropping 30-29 comeback.

With the loss, Charlotte falls to 0-5 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. They have been outscored 172-74 by opponents, and have only one score in three of their five games this year.

It is safe to say this is not the start head coach Brad Lambert and his team desired to get off to. With all the frustration of the early performance, it is easy to dismiss the positives and focus on what can be done to improve. However, a light has been shining through the darkness for this squad and it was especially apparent against the Golden Panthers. If you blink you might miss it, but the 49ers have been running the ball extremely well this season.

Now, if we are going to talk about the efficiency of the Niner run game, we have to start with Benny LeMay. I mean, the guy has, quite frankly, been a beast. The 5’9″ sophomore generated his second 100-plus yard game of the season against Florida International, running for 178 yards on 22 carries, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Putting it bluntly, those numbers are outright phenomenal. Contextualizing this, if LeMay were to average that per rush every game, he would be top ten in yards per carry among qualifiers in Division One football.

Insane, right?

Well, what if I were to tell you he is not that far off from the top ten in yards per carry on the season? Through five games, number 32 has ran for 450 yards on 68 attempts, good for a 6.6 average, which ranks 22nd in the league and 4th in Conference USA. Maybe “22nd in the league” does not sound too glamorous, but you have to consider there are 181 qualified rushers, putting him in the top 13 percent.

The statistic, yard per attempt, shows the true effectiveness of rusher or passer, hence, why I am talking about it so much. It tells us, if given the ball, how many yards a player is likely to attain on a respective play. Keeping in mind the game of football is all about gaining yards to get to the end zone and score points, the importance of this stat is highlighted.

Hasaan Klugh running the ball against A&T. Photo by Chris Crews

LeMay has been Charlotte’s best rusher, but he is not the only guy running well. Klugh is also doing damage to defenses with his legs. He ran for three rushing touchdowns against his conference-adversary on Saturday, giving him a total of five on the season, which is tied with UAB’s A.J Erdely for most among QB’s and is third among all rushers in C-USA.

Further, he leads C-USA quarterbacks in attempts (67), yards (297), and has the longest run of the season, with a 51-yarder. His 4.4 yards per attempt is also not too shabby.

Aaron McAllister (96 yards on 20 carries) has also added to the dynamic run game.

It has become evident there are players on this team who are experiencing great success with the ground game. But, putting it all together, how has this translated in terms of team statistics?

Among their 13 other C-USA foes, Charlotte is third in rushing yards, as a team, with 985, trailing only Florida International (1099) and North Texas (1078). In terms of the ever-so-important yards per attempt, they only drop one spot, placing fourth with a sterling 5.1 mark. They do, however, struggle in the touchdown department running the ball, only having accrued five, all of which were by Klugh.

All said, maybe a potential solution to Charlotte’s scoring struggles should be running the ball in the red zone more frequently? They clearly have had success rushing the ball, but do not have the touchdowns to reflect that. The players and coaches obviously know more about what does and does not work for them than myself, yet this running game has been very effective, and perhaps their strategy should shift to utilizing the ground game in more important situations.

The offensive line deserves credit, here, as well as the rushers, because they are the ones opening holes for them to run through. It has been a team effort which has led to their prosperity rushing the ball.

Offensively, the 49ers have struggled early on and there is no getting around that. With that said, these struggles have overshadowed a real bright spot for the team and it is time the effort of the rushers gets the credit they deserve. Blink if you must, but when you open your eyes, you might see LeMay running for first down after first down.

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Category:Football, Sports

Comments (2)

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  1. Patrick Smith says:

    Great article, can’t wait for your next piece!

  2. richard green says:

    nice job