The atmosphere inside of Jerry Richardson Stadium was electric as the 49ers and Blue Devils battled back and forth for the entire four quarters. After last year's meeting between these two teams, Charlotte had a chip on their shoulder and would not be denied. Here are five takeaways from Charlotte football's 31-28 win over Duke.
You do not have to be a top prospect to make an impact
This past offseason, Grant DuBose, a new addition to the deep 49er wide-receiver room, had arguably the best game of any receiver. DuBose had two receiving touchdowns to go along with his 118 receiving yards. Victor Tucker might have had a few more catches and yards, but DuBose's impact on just four catches was vital.
"James Foster calls coach (Mark) Carney and is like, 'I do not know who you are planning on taking? I know we need a wide-out. There is this guy from Miles College who is pretty good.' And, in walks Mr. Grant DuBose, and he was not even close to all the rest of them (receiver transfer prospects)," head coach Will Healy told the media after the game.
Coming from a small school like Miles College, DuBose is not used to the division one spotlight, but he shinned despite that. DuBose commented on this experience in the postgame press conference.
"It does not even feel real. I have been taking in this whole week. Just imagining myself out here playing Duke and being out here in this atmosphere, so it is honestly surreal," DuBose stated.
Reynolds showing potential
Chris Reynolds passed for 324 yards on 19/30 completions. He had three passing touchdowns to go alongside his yardage. In what was arguably his most significant game under center for the 49ers, he showed up in a big way willing his team to a victory.
"When times are tough, when it's crunch time, you fall down to your training," Reynolds said after the game. "At the end of the day, it does not matter what they throw at us. It is about how we execute what we do."
When Charlotte brought in quarterback transfer James Foster over the offseason, this brought up many questions about who would start for the 49ers. However, it is clear now that when healthy, Chris Reynolds will be the man under center for the 49ers.
Defense can keep improving after big night
It is not easy to beat a Power Five team like Duke. The defense played a massive role in the win. They were very consistent and kept Duke QB Gunnar Holmberg scrambling. Key plays from Markees Watts and Kofi Wardlow on the defensive line proved monumental for the 49ers.
Captain Tyler Murray had six tackles, four of which were solos. Where Murray came up big was with his QB pressures, as he had two. He made sure Holmberg did not have time to make throws, and it proved to be a key to victory.
There are still a few glaring holes in the defense, one of which is the middle part of the defensive line. Charlotte gave up 259 rushing yards to Duke running back Mateo Durant. Durant is a premiere back in the ACC, but he set the Duke rushing record with 259 yards on just 29 carries in the game.
Coach Healy attributes the win in large part to his team's resilience.
"If you would have told me before the game that he (Durant) would have 29 carries for 259 yards, I would have told you we needed a few more timeouts in our back pocket."
Charlotte is still waiting to hear about the eligibility of defensive tackle Jalar Holley from The University of Miami. They remain optimistic that he can play this season.
Healy wanted this win badly
We know that 2020 was a year of adversity. It was a year in the sports world that many would rather forget. It may not seem so bad for the few lucky teams that did get to play. However, Healy took last season personally and ended up questioning himself more than ever before.
"When you look back over the last 20 months, as a head coach when you go 2-4 and have nine games canceled, you feel like you failed your guys from a student-athlete experience standpoint," Healy said in his opening remarks to the media following the game.
"I took it hard," Healy added.
This win can be built upon and used to remind the coaching staff that they are doing things the right way and that they can continue to trust the process they are going through because it will work.
Charlotte can contend for the C-USA crown
Yes, it is just one game. Yes, it is only week one of a very young season with many variables and unknowns that are sure to come. However, what the 49ers have shown the college football world is that they have talent and willpower.
When these two factors combine, something extraordinary can come out of it. Of course, it will take dedication, but this team's work over the last 20 months, as Healy often references, is remarkable and the right recipe for success.
"For the team to fight as hard, not just the last 60 minutes, but really for 20 months, has been amazing. It shows the caliber of human beings we have in that locker room," Healy said.
It seems that normalcy has been restored, so is the confidence in the Charlotte locker room, and it may just take them to the top of C-USA.