The Charlotte 49ers football team (4-2) battled through a 53-51-comeback victory over 24th-ranked Gardner-Webb (4-2) on Saturday, Oct. 5. The stands were not nearly as packed as many fans would have hoped to see, but the 49ers should see a better turnout for their next home game: it’s homecoming.
The 49ers host the 13th-ranked Division II UNC Pembroke Braves (4-0) on Saturday, Oct. 12 at home inside Jerry Richardson Stadium. After a week of homecoming festivities on UNC Charlotte’s massive campus, the 49ers will be on the hunt for the first-ever three-game winning streak.
The well-rested Braves are an experienced team that has been able to challenge every opponent thus far this season.
Braves redshirt senior quarterback Luke Charles, like many of the other quarterbacks the Charlotte defense has faced, has experience on the field under his belt. Charles has already thrown for 1,154 yards in just four games this season, averages 288.5 yards per game, and is 64.6 percent successful in completed passes. Charles passed for 401 yards and three touchdowns in an impressive showing at Fayetteville State earlier in the season. The UNCP’s rush game is not nearly as impressive as the passing game thanks to Charles, but the Braves do have some talented running backs to help.
Redshirt freshman Rontonio Stanley may have only run the ball 16 times this season, but he averages an impressive 10.6 yards per carry. Redshirt sophomore Tamari White and senior Elliott Powell have split the carries this season. White sat out during the 2012 season due to an injury.
One of Charles’ receivers is senior Te’vell Williams who averages 70.8 yards per game and has two touchdowns on the season. Redshirt sophomore John Rich might be one of the most dangerous weapons for the Braves offense. He averages 32 yards per game and has six touchdowns on the season in just four games. He’s young, but he’s quick.
UNCP has only committed seven turnovers on the season to the Charlotte 14, and have 11 rushing touchdowns.
Regarding turnovers, the Braves have forced 10 so far this season, and have only allowed opponents to average 18.8 points per game.
Redshirt senior linebacker Fred Williams has led the Braves defense so far this year with 29 tackles, five sacks and is responsible for forcing one fumble. Williams is a quick and experienced linebacker that will challenge the Charlotte offensive line.
Junior L.J. Stroman is another linebacker for the Braves that has put on quite the show this season. Stroman has 25 tackles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown against Fayetteville State.
The 49ers have been able to force turnovers as if it were their sole purpose on the field. With 22 forced turnovers and healthy linebackers, the 49ers will both challenge and be challenged by the Braves. The 49ers are first in the FCS in takeaways (22), first in recovered fumbles (12) and fourth in interceptions (10).
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers average 266.2 passing yards per game and 202.7 rushing yards per game. The 49ers are ranked second in the FCS in first downs with 152 so far this season.
The 49ers will lose Devon Johnson for the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury during the Gardner-Webb game. Thomas La Bianca is questionable to play against the Braves after encountering a knee injury in the same game as Johnson.
The Braves are coming off of a bye week, so they’re much more rested than the 49ers are after playing six straight games.
If the 49ers are able to cut back on penalties, capitalize on red zone opportunities and shutdown the explosive Braves offense, the young Charlotte team has a solid chance of knocking off their second ranked opponent this season. After all, it is homecoming, and no team likes losing their homecoming game.