November has finally come, and the Niners hope that this portion of the schedule will be more fruitful. Charlotte won their last contest, 25-24, in overtime against the UAB Blazers for their first win of the 2017 season and first ever Homecoming win. They’re hoping that they can keep the momentum rolling, as they will face the Old Dominion Monarchs on the road this Saturday.
Scoping the Monarchs
The Monarchs have been having a rough go of it lately, as the team comes into Saturday’s contest with a 2-6 record. ODU’s season started off promising enough, as they began 2-0 with wins over Albany and Massachusetts. However, the team struggled during the ACC portion of their schedule, losing 53-23 to North Carolina and 38-0 to in-state foe Virginia Tech. Conference USA has been no easier for them, as they have lost four straight games, including a 45-38 thriller to North Texas last weekend.
ODU’s biggest bright spot is their backfield. Junior running back Jeremy Cox, who hails from North Carolina, leads the team with 597 rushing yards and four touchdowns thus far. Meanwhile, senior Ray Lawry has 269 rushing yards to go with his four rushing touchdowns. Their efforts have made up for the struggles of quarterback Steven Williams. Williams, a true freshman, has gone 85-172 for 864 yards, but has 11 interceptions to only four touchdowns on the year.
The ODU receivers have racked up yardage but have also struggled to score; the Monarchs average 21.4 points a game and surrender an average of 36. Travis Fulgham has 18 receptions for 262 yards and one touchdown, and Melvin Vaughn has 18 catches for 211 yards and two scores. Isaiah Harper also brings 18 receptions and 195 yards to the table. Cox and Harper are the most dangerous multipurpose threats; in addition to rushing, Cox also has 145 receiving yards and 122 kick return yards this year, and Harper has racked up an impressive 570 kick return yards.
On defense, linebackers Marvin Branch and Jordan Young lead the charge, while safety Denzel Williams and defensive end Oshane Ximines also wreak havoc. Branch has 69 tackles this year to go with one interception, while Williams has 68 tackles and Young has 55. Ximines has 32 tackles this year, but 10.5 of those have been for a loss; he leads the Monarchs with six sacks on the year. These playmakers will be the ones Charlotte has their eyes on come gametime.
Charlotte knows the season isn’t over yet. Despite their 1-7 record, there is a lot of football left, and the bye week after Homecoming has given them ample time to prepare for the Monarchs. While the Niners are upbeat right now, the Monarchs are flailing, and Charlotte hopes to deal a big blow and eliminate ODU from bowl contention.
For starters, the team will need Hasaan Klugh to continue doing what he has been. The redshirt junior quarterback’s heroics were a big part of the win over UAB, as he had a career-high 140 rushing yards. He also passed for 154 yards (including a season-long 68-yard bomber to Trent Bostick) and rushed for two scores, and caught the game-winning pass on a two-point conversion from Chris Montgomery on a flea flicker.
For the season, Charlotte’s rushing attack has been stellar. Klugh has 441 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while Benny Lemay has 517 yards with one receiving touchdown. Aaron McAllister has come in on a high note, as he has 325 yards on only 59 carries and two touchdowns. McAllister, who switched over to running back and didn’t see much playing time earlier this season, has been a big reason Charlotte has been able to stomach the departure of Robert Washington.
The receiving corps has had an up-and-down year, but Bostick is hot right now; expect him to be targeted a lot against ODU. Workpeh Kofa has 284 receiving yards so far, Bostick has 198 and two scores, and Mark Quattlebaum (190 yards) and TL Ford II (111 yards, one score). Meanwhile, the defense has been huge for Charlotte the last month. Despite leading tackler Karrington King being lost for the season, the linebackers and defensive backs have stepped up. Ben DeLuca has 68 total tackles and three forced fumbles, and linebacker Jeff Gemmell has 57 tackles to follow. Both DeLuca and Gemmell had 10 tackles apiece last time out, and Juwan Foggie brings 55 tackles and one interception to the mix.
Expect the defense to come out fired up and force a lot of turnovers against the Monarchs. The defense has been red hot and always keeps the game competitive, and given Williams’ struggles, they’ll have their work cut out for them. On offense, if the team mixes up the playcalling and gives Klugh, LeMay and McAllister a balance of carries, the receivers should be able to make big plays downfield. Given their latest win, Charlotte has all the momentum and will hopefully come out on top.
The game against ODU will kickoff Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.