The 2020 Charlotte 49er football season was a year to forget for many. The 49ers are ready to get their 2021 season going as normal as possible without rehashing memories of games canceled last minute and practices not occurring.
Charlotte opens their 2021 campaign against a familiar foe, the Duke Blue Devils. The 2020 contest on Halloween night in Durham did not go as planned for the 49ers. There were no fans in the stadium, and for Charlotte, it was one of only six games they could play. The 49ers are ready to avenge the loss this season, which ended in a 19-53 result.
Not only will the 49ers being hosting a Power Five team for the first time in school history, but it will also be the first full capacity game since the 2019 season. Healy expressed the emotions when playing in what is expected to be a packed stadium on Friday night.
"I'm excited we are talking about a football game that we are going to play this Friday at 7 p.m.," said Healy in his first weekly press conference of the year. "That is another fun aspect of this press conference. It's typically "I hope we're playing," and now "it's we are going to play this Friday."
The game will also happen amid a big weekend for Charlotte when it comes to college football. Appalachian State and East Carolina face-off inside Bank of America stadium. Clemson and Georgia face off in one of the biggest college football games of the year.
"It's a big weekend for Charlotte in general from the football games that are being played in our city," said Healy. "We look forward to being a part of those games."
Charlotte is 5-3 in season openers.
Charlotte has never beaten an ACC team.
Charlotte has only lost one game when opening the season at home.
Keys to a 49er Victory
The first thing that Charlotte has to do is get the run game going. With Shadrick Byrd and Calvin Camp being the top two running backs according to the two-deep roster, they will need to get off to a strong start and finish strong as well.
"Shadrick (Byrd) just seems like he is really consistent," Healy said about his starting running back. "He understands our offense well."
"Calvin is the guy we've seen in person do some really good things, and I think that his consistency will be key," Healy noted about Calvin Camp.
One of the biggest keys is stopping the Duke run game, which the 49ers could not do well in the 2020 matchup. Key defensive players like Tyler Murray and Luke Martin will have their hands full, as they are responsible for stopping running back Mateo Durant of the Blue Devils. They will need to communicate well and be precise.
Prediction: 49ers win by three
This is Charlotte's bounce-back year. They will pull through in the closing minutes and beat Duke by three with a late field goal by Jonathan Cruz. The defense will have to be at their very best, but behind captain Tyler Murray and Luke Martin, the team will find a way to get the job done.
If the 49ers can hold Duke running back Mateo Durant to under 100 yards rushing, it will tremendously increase the team's chance. This game will put the sports world on notice and put the 49ers on the map as a top team in Conference USA.
How to watch
The 49ers get their 2021 season underway Friday, Sep. 3, at 7 p.m. at Jerry Richardson Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network, and you can also listen to the game on ESPN 730. It is expected to be a full capacity crowd.