The Charlotte 49ers are in their second season as a Conference USA football team. The 49ers did not look like a second-year program last week going on the road and defeating Florida Atlantic. In that win the 49ers switched quarterbacks and it paid off with a more mobile and athletic signal caller. FIU visits Charlotte Saturday night after defeating the 49ers in Miami last season.
For more on the 49ers here is Bill Kiser, the 49ers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer newspaper, to answer 5 Questions on Charlotte. You can follow Bill on Twitter for all things 49ers: @BKiser_CLTObs
1. What does Charlotte do best on offense and how do you think the switch to Hasaan Klugh at QB will affect the team?
BK: The 49ers run a spread offense, but like to balance out their passing game with the running game. Having Klugh (who replaced Kevin Olsen as the starting QB last week) running the show will certainly improve both aspects of Charlotte's offense. Not only can he throw the ball (223 yards, three TDs in the win over Florida Atlantic), he can also run with it (54 yards and a score on 14 carries), allowing the 49ers to extend plays and/or compliment career rushing leader Kalif Phillips.
2. What do the 49ers do well on defense and where are they vulnerable? Who are some of their defensive playmakers?
BK: The strong suit of Charlotte's defense is its front seven, led by preseason all-C-USA nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi (14.5 career tackles for loss) and inside linebacker Nick Cook (sixth in total tackles with 57). However, their secondary has been hurt by the absence of cornerback Terrance Winchester due to a separated shoulder. While cornerback Kedrick Davis (a North Carolina transfer) is tied for the league lead in interceptions (three) and Winchester's replacement, Anthony Covington, is tied for second in passes defended (seven), the 49ers have also given up several deep balls on play-action passes.
3. What was that last play like against FAU, the "Fail Mary" and do you think a shorter week of prep for FIU will affect Charlotte?
BK: The "Fail Mary" was a heartstopper for Charlotte, and a heartbreaker for Florida Atlantic -- even 49ers head coach Brad Lambert said he was worried about how the review would turn out, because of the legalities of the review process. The short week, as it were, shouldn't affect Charlotte's preparations too much after having to play Florida Atlantic on Sunday. The 49ers flew back to North Carolina on Monday morning, and were back on campus watching game tape by lunchtime. One thing that works in Charlotte's favor is the school's fall break, which gave the players Monday and Tuesday off from classes.
4. How is the 49ers football program's development going?
BK: If you look at just wins and losses, one would think Charlotte's development is crawling along at a snail's pace -- and that snail may be moving backwards. However, I don't think that's the case, especially this season, the 49ers' fourth as a Division I program. Sure, they've had setbacks (and the season opening loss to then-No. 19 Louisville can almost be ignored -- there have been much better teams savaged by the Cardinals and quarterback Lamar Jackson, a legit Heisman Trophy candidate) but they've also had injuries to key personnel (Winchester, offensive lineman Jamal Covington and even Phillips, who missed a couple games with hamstring issues). Now that the quarterback situation appears to be settled (and Phillips is back at 100 percent), I don't see many more blowouts (especially in C-USA games) coming the rest of the season.
5. Your thoughts on Saturday's game and prediction?
BK: You've got two teams coming off big wins this past weekend -- FIU is now 2-0 in the C-USA East Division, while Charlotte ended its nine-game conference losing streak -- and are pretty close to each other in most of the conference's team statistics. But getting that C-USA monkey off the 49ers back should give them a needed boost for this weekend's game. It's not going to be a blowout, though -- Charlotte 27, FIU 24.