Records: Gardner-Web (0-0, 0-0 Big South) vs. Charlotte (2-3, 2-1 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 14th, 12:00 PM ET
Location: Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Fan Capacity: 7% (1,028 students, family members, and university guests)
Betting Line: Charlotte -30.5 (O/U: 62.5)
All-Time Series Record: Charlotte 2-1
Previous Matchup: Chris Reynolds’ three touchdowns led the 49ers to their first victory under Will Healy, resulting in the debut of Club Lit.
If you’re loving the youth movement in college football, look no further than the Gardner-Webb’s staff, led by 31-year-old head coach Tre Lamb. The Bulldogs’ average age for the full-time coaching staff is just 28.9 years old.
In his playing days, Lamb served as quarterback and was a three-time team captain for the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. After graduation, he joined the staff as quarterbacks coach and would go on to take the same position with Mercer before returning to his alma mater as offensive coordinator in 2018. Lamb played a major role in one of the biggest turnarounds in the FCS, as the Golden Eagles tripled their win total from 2017 and 2018 in just one season. One would be interested in seeing who had the better arm - Healy or Lamb.
Expect Gardner-Webb to utilize three quarterbacks and roll with the hot hand in Saturday’s matchup. The trio of Wake Forest transfer and QB1 star Tayvon Bowers, Keegan Smith, and Jy Tolen will all see action against a 49ers defense that ranks eighth in C-USA.
Regardless of who Lamb decides to stick with, Gardner-Webb boasts one of the best receiving corps in the FCS, headlined by All-America candidates Devron Harper and Izaiah Gathings. The wideout duo combined for nearly 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019.
With the Bulldogs slated to play in the spring, this will be essentially an exhibition game for the visitors from Boiling Springs. After having a plethora of raw talent with an underclassmen core in 2019, Lamb’s unit returns 17 total starters from last season’s campaign, eight on offense and nine on defense.
Breaking a six-game losing skid dating back to last season would be a great way to kick off Lamb’s tenure, but the Bulldogs must come out on fire if they plan to compete in the second half.
“We had what were arguably our two best days of practice on Sunday and Monday, so things are coming together well,” Lamb said. “Our team has been dedicated to protecting the bubble and everyone involved continues to work hard to stay healthy and keep others around us healthy.”
Following the fourth postponement or cancellation alike since the season began, the 49ers are preparing for a Gardner-Webb team that has absolutely nothing to lose. This is the third time this season that Charlotte has matched up with a program that’s making their 2020 debut, but the film study and preparation remain the same.
Following a loss, all you want to do is get back on the field. The harsh reality of the stomach-wrenching performance in Durham was extended with the cancellation of last week’s matchup with Middle Tennessee, but this team just keeps pushing. “Stay positive, test negative,” has become a mantra for this program. Through the most frustrating, deflating, rewarding, and defining seasons of college football to date, the 49ers are still ready to pad up at any time.
“We are doing everything humanly possible, in a safe way, to try and get back out on the field this Saturday,” Healy said. “If we get a chance to go play, we are going to take advantage of it and make the most of it.”
Charlotte is going to get the best shot that the Runnin’ Bulldogs have at noon on Saturday. You can expect Gardner-Webb to empty the playbook and play a determined brand of football. Scoring quick and creating distance on the scoreboard early could put this one away in the first half, but this team needs to execute in all phases and I expect the 49ers to come out with a sense of urgency.
Chris Reynolds has been consistent through the air this season, and it’s just a matter of time before he explodes in the ground game and takes this offense to the next level. With the options of McAllister and Harbison in the backfield, expect the latter to come out with a different type of chip on his shoulder.
Upon scheduling and rescheduling two games in two days, Charlotte now has four more matchups on the schedule and a chance to get back to .500 at home this weekend. The last contest against Gardner-Webb was the first win under Will Healy and the introduction to Club Lit. Reynolds took control of the game and all at once it became his team.
“Going back and watching the film of last year’s game - this place was electric. It was packed,” Healy said. “It makes you remember how important football is to this place, what type of fanbase you have, and how supported you really are. It was a special night for sure.”
For the first time in their playing careers, Tre Harbison will match up against his younger half-brother, Devin Baldwin, a punter for the Bulldogs. Tre’s father and grandfather, James and Charlie Harbison, are both members of Gardner-Webb’s hall of fame.
Gardner-Webb is going to pull out all the stops to stay in this game, but the talent gap is going to show in the second half when the 49ers impose their will in the running game. Expect Tre Harbison and Chris Reynolds to do damage on the ground and the defense to force timely turnovers in a much-needed victory to get back to .500. Charlotte 49, Gardner-Webb 17.