Charlotte/Duke football preview

Multiple 49ers tackle a Duke player in their matchup last season.  

The Charlotte 49ers football season cranks up with a crucial in-state game against Duke. Charlotte looks to take another step in the right direction as Coach Healy enters his third season. Last year, the 49ers traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to face off against Duke on October 31st, 2021. Unfortunately, Charlotte fell to Duke 53 to 19.

However, it's a new season, and that brings change and opportunity. This will be a critical game to show the 49ers' growth since last season. Let's scout each team before one of the biggest games in the history of Charlotte football. 

Scouting the Devils 

Duke comes into the game with a lot of question marks. The Blue Devils three defensive stars to the 2021 NFL Draft and an All-ACC tight end. They have a change at Quarterback, with Gunnar Holmberg receiving the starting position. Gunnar played substantial minutes in the 49ers' last meeting with Duke. He threw for 21 yards and had three rushing attempts resulting in 1-yard total rushing. Mateo Durant is back for his senior year at Duke. In last year's meeting with the Blue Devils, he ran for 104 yards.

Scouting the 49ers 

Charlotte has been laying the foundation for the program, brick by brick, game by game. This time, the challenge will be heightened as Charlotte hosts its first-ever Power 5 football team in Jerry Richardson Stadium.

Going into Coach Healy's third year, 49er fans are excited. Charlotte's Chris Reynolds is going into his redshirt senior season with much experience. The 49ers bring back a stellar receiving core, starting with Victor Tucker and Cameron Dollar. Taylor Thompson looks to grow on an excellent Freshman year at tight end. The 49ers also added transfers on both sides of the ball that will make an impact right away.

Players to watch

Charlotte – Quarterback Play

For the 49ers, a key player to keep an eye on is Chris Reynolds. Last year, Reynolds threw for 1,305 yards on 175 attempts. Reynolds did a good job of not giving the ball away and only throwing two interceptions on the season. In the last match-up against Duke, Reynolds threw for 171 yards on 18 completions out of 34 attempts. Look for the 49ers to establish the short passing game and send in the new transfer from Texas A&M in James Foster to run the ball in certain situations. The 49ers must have smart quarterback plays and get a string of little wins early.

Duke – Quarterback play

For Duke, the question is, can Gunnar Holmberg fill the shoes of former Duke quarterbacks. Look for Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe to build Gunnar's confidence by throwing different screen plays and running the ball with Mateo Durant. Duke's Jake Bobo on the outside will be one of Holmberg's top targets Friday night.

The bottom line 

Ultimately, both teams have a lot of question marks around their programs. Both teams don't have many players returning on both sides of the ball, and both teams have transfers that came in and looking to play in critical spots with crucial minutes.

For Charlotte, will the back end on defense provide the 49ers with pass coverage that has lacked in previous years? All of the 49ers' starters at the defensive back are incoming transfers. Can the 49ers get off to a fast start by moving the ball on offense? For Duke, what will the offensive production look like under Gunnar Holmberg at the helm? Can Duke limit giving the ball away, especially interceptions? 

The 49ers will have the chance to answer these questions in just their first game of the season. 

Keys on Offense

- Get off to a fast start and create confidence by moving the ball down the field. 

- Don't turn the ball over and refrain from costly penalty mistakes. 

- Establish the running game. 

Keys on Defense

- Stop the Run, make Duke one dimensional. 

- Keep everything in front of us and make sure we rally to the ball by taking the right angles. 

- Don't allow the big plays. 

Game time is set for 7 p.m. inside Jerry Richardson Stadium. 

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