Start Time: 3:30 PM EST. Saturday, October 31.
Location: McColl-Richardson Field, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Fox Sports Net
Streaming: Fox Sports Go App
Records: Marshall 7-1. Charlotte 2-5. This is the first meeting between these two programs.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Marshall -17. Over/Under: 51.5.
Marshall Preview: Marshall enters with the best defense in the league, ranking first in scoring defense (16.9), total defense (360.1) and passing defense (182). The Herd is averaging nearly 32 points per contest while rushing for 179 yards, tied for second best in the conference with Charlotte.
Marshall's backfield has been much like the flavor of the week this season as five different backs have carried the ball and all have scored at least one touchdown. With the loss of Devon Johnson; Remi Watson, Tony Pittman and Keion Davis were charged with toting the load. When Pittman was lost to injury, Hyleck Foster moved from slot receiver into the backfield and has been nothing less than stellar in his first two games as a back. Foster produced back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in Marshall wins over FAU and North Texas and will face his toughest test this season with the 49ers this weekend.
Two differences separate Marshall and Charlotte: turnovers and the ability to score the football. Marshall played its first turnover free game last week against North Texas, while Charlotte is averaging over three per contest. Inside the red zone, Marshall has scored a touchdown 20 times in 34 visits with Charlotte having only eight in 22 tries. If Charlotte has any hopes of pulling off an upset, it must limit the turnovers and not trade touchdowns for field goals inside the 20.
Charlotte Preview: Sometimes you're the hammer, and sometimes you're the nail. Unless you're Charlotte, then you're pretty much always the nail.
It's been a rough stretch lately for the 49ers and it looks to get tougher when they face the Herd. Losers of five straight coming into Saturday, Charlotte has been outscored 208-68 during the skid.
And the further you dive into the numbers, the worse it gets. The Charlotte offense has been pitiful all season long, averaging only 17.9 points per game, 349.9 yards per game 4.39 per play, in addition to a -11 turnover margin. Not surprisingly, these place the 49ers at or near the bottom of Conference USA statistically.
Much of the 49ers offensive issues stem from poor quarterback play. Lee McNeil and Matt Johnson have both split time, and have both been ineffective. McNeill has thrown for just 559 yards (averaging 4.5 yards per attempt), completed 49.2 percent of his passes, and has yet to throw a touchdown this season. Oh yeah, and he's also thrown nine interceptions. Johnson has been better by comparison, throwing for 526 yards (8.1 per attempt) and three touchdowns, but has thrown seven interceptions. The running game has done its best to pick up the slack offensively. Junior Kalif Phillips is the feature back, averaging 5.45 yards per carry with four touchdowns this season.
The futility doesn't stop there for Charlotte. In five losses, the 49ers defense is allowing 425.4 yards and 41.6 yards per game.
The front seven is led by linebacker Nick Cook (46 total tackles, 6.57 per game) and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (8.5 tackles for loss), while defensive back Terrence Winchester has two picks and a fumble recovery on the season.
Prediction: This game has a special element within itself, as the teams will honor Phil Ratliff before the game. Ratliff suddenly passed away Aug. 9, 2015. Ratliff served as the 49er's offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator since the program's inception. He also served as a coach at Marshall from 2006-11, was an All-American with the Herd and won a National Championship in 1992.
Chase Litton enters this game searching for progress and production, something the freshman quarterback said he has failed to consistently provide this season. With a tough rushing defense by the 49ers, Marshall's air attack will be needed to put this one in the win column. Litton continues to fire bullets toward Deandre Reaves and added a new piece to his arsenal last week when Justin Hunt entered the starting lineup on the outside. Hunt hauled in four catches and a touchdown in the win.
Gary Thompson and Ryan Bee have a field day while Taj Letman and Corey Tindal pace the Herd's No Fly Zone.
Marshall 34, Charlotte 10.