The Charlotte 49ers are entering their seventh season on the field, but their first with Head Coach Will Healy at the helm. Along with Healy comes Carter Crutchfield as the recruiting coordinator and director of football relations, who was with Healy at Austin Peay prior to joining the staff at Charlotte. Crutchfield helped to garner Austin Peay’s top five recruiting classes to help Healy turn the program around. This bodes well for the recruiting classes at Charlotte, and among many other factors, will potentially contribute to the turnaround of this program as well.
Charlotte has a big season ahead of itself with all things considered. Since the hiring of the new head coach and all of the things that have followed, the program has generated a lot of support, but the 2019 season itself could generate a whole new fanbase for the Niners. Part of the hope is to get those that are already at Charlotte more invested in this team than ever. That doesn’t appear out of thin air, sure, but no one’s claimed that it will.
Aside from the less tangible things like support, the program is facing an interesting schedule. Most notably, Charlotte will take on the 2019 National Champions, the Clemson Tigers. This is huge. It’s clearly something that sparked a lot of conversation from the public since the plan was made and even more so once people began to realize what was going to be taking place in the fall of 2019. Charlotte, in its seventh season, is traveling to Death Valley to play against a program that has been around for over 100 seasons. This is going to be a really beneficial thing for the Charlotte 49ers in a lot of ways.
To begin the Healy era, the 49ers kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29 against Gardner-Webb at home inside Jerry Richardson Stadium.
vs. Gardner-Webb, Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.
The last time the Niners met with the Bulldogs, they fell 24-27 in Boiling Springs in 2014, six games into the season. The season prior, Charlotte faced Gardner-Webb at home and came out on top at 53-51. Either way, it’s important to consider that these were also the program’s first and second seasons. In 2013, the Niners rallied from a 21-point deficit going into the fourth quarter. Of course, none of the players present for either of these games will be suiting up this year. Even so, the Niners have a lot of defensive weapons that are likely to keep the Bulldogs from such a high-scoring game.
at Appalachian State, Sept. 7, 3:30 p.m.
Charlotte faced this in-state opponent in particular for the first time ever in 2018 at home and will travel to Boone this year for another matchup with the Mountaineers. The outcome in 2018 wasn’t ideal at a 45-9 loss, but it was a slightly similar situation to playing Clemson this season, mostly in the exposure it brought. App. scored 21 points in the second half alone while Charlotte scored their nine points in the second quarter and was unable to do so again.
vs. Massachusetts, Sept. 14, 6 p.m.
While the 2018 season was the first in which the Niners faced the Minutemen, the loss wasn’t nearly as substantial as the loss to the Mountaineers. It was the first road game of 2018 and the Niners let the game get away from them early on. Massachusetts took a 28-0 lead before Charlotte was able to score in the second quarter. Simply unable to come back after giving the opponent the upper hand, it’s a trend that the Niners will have to remedy this season in order to play a good full four quarters and give themselves the advantage right out of the gate.
at Clemson, Sept. 21, TBA
As mentioned before, this is the first meeting between the two teams. It’s expected to be a big loss for Charlotte as far as numbers go and it’s unlikely Clemson will play much if its first string — or if at all. Either way, the Niners under Healy playing the Tigers under Dabo Swinney is sure to be an interesting meeting, probably taken seriously as a learning experience. Teams need games like this, even if they don’t always come when the fans think they should. The program is excited about it and they have every reason to be.
vs. FAU, Sept. 28, 3:30 p.m.
Charlotte’s first Conference USA matchup will be against the FAU Owls, the fifth game between the two teams overall. This will be third meeting in Jerry Richardson Stadium following a big 27-24 win for Charlotte in Boca Raton, Fl. in 2018 that kept the Owls from a bowl game and finished the 49ers’ season off with a 5-7 record. Charlotte is 2-2 against FAU and the previous meeting was the lowest point margin of any of the meetings, the second lowest having been in 2016 when the Niners won 28-23. This will also be the earliest in the season that the team has played and obviously is a flip flop from FAU being Charlotte’s final opponent in 2018.
at FIU, Oct. 12, 7 p.m.
The fifth matchup between FIU and Charlotte holds potential to be Charlotte’s first win over the team that was picked to finish second in the east division ahead of the Niners, a team that was picked to finish last in the division. Since a 17-point loss in 2015, the Niners have closed in on the Panthers, with a 1-point loss in 2017 and falling at home 42-35 in 2018. The last meeting between the two teams saw scores for each team in each quarter, but FIU was able to get the additional points needed over Charlotte. Benny LeMay had a record game in that loss, scoring four of five 49er touchdowns and is entering his final season as a 49er.
at WKU, Oct. 19, 4 p.m.
WKU, only picked to finish in the east division two spots ahead of Charlotte, has only met with Charlotte twice and the matchup previously held at WKU ended with a 45-15 win over the 49ers. In the 2018 season though, Charlotte came out on top at home at 40-14 for homecoming win. This was a breakout game for quarterback Evan Shirreffs as a Niner and an all-around team win if there ever was one. Jonathan Cruz kicked a 51-yard field goal and showed Charlotte once again how vital he would come to be. Charlotte’s win was a product of nearly 450 yards of total offense and holding WKU to almost half the yards and recreating something of that nature would no doubt secure another win.
vs. North Texas, Oct. 26, 3:30 p.m.
A game against North Texas brings the Niners back to Jerry Richardson Stadium for their fourth CUSA game of the season. This is the first meeting between the two teams, and while Charlotte was picked to finish last in the east division, North Texas was picked to finish first in the west division after a 9-4 overall record last season. The Mean Green is likely to give the 49ers a tough game, but Charlotte has become incredibly comfortable in their home, so how they fare throughout the season leading up to this game could prepare them for this matchup.
vs. Middle Tennessee, Nov. 2, 3:30 p.m.
Even though the Blue Raiders played in the 2018 CUSA Championship and fell to UAB only 25-27, they had an 8-6 overall record and they were picked to finish in the east division in only fourth, three spots above Charlotte. Of course, as Charlotte intends to prove, the preseason poll isn’t typically the end all be all, and in their four meetings so far, Charlotte has yet take down Middle Tennessee. The 49ers outdid the Blue Raiders in terms of offensive yards, but they’ll need to capitalize on turnovers and cover the passing game more carefully.
at UTEP, Nov. 9, 3 p.m.
This will also be the first meeting between the two CUSA teams as the Niners travel to El Paso, Texas to take on the Miners. UTEP had a record of 1-11 overall in 2018 and were picked to finish last in the west division. It should be a decent win for Charlotte, but it will be an interesting matchup either way.
vs. Marshall, Nov. 23, 3:30 p.m.
The last home game of the season for Charlotte before preseason ball bring Marshall to Jerry Richardson Stadium for the fifth meeting between the teams. Charlotte has lost three of the four games, and the one occasion on which the 49ers had the win, many of the current senior standouts were freshman. In the 2016 win, Ben DeLuca forced a game-changing fumble in the third quarter to help get the Niners back into gear and on their way to a win.
at ODU, Nov. 30, 2 p.m.
The final regular season game of the season for the 49ers will take place in Norfolk, Va. in the fifth matchup between ODU and Charlotte. The 2018 meeting saw Charlotte out on top with a 28-25 win at home after falling just 6-0 the season prior. The win was courtesy of a number of things. Once again, some of the standout Niners such as Jeff Gemmell, Anthony Butler, Aaron McAllister, Benny LeMay, Jonathan Cruz, and the duo of Chris Reynolds and Victor Tucker were key pieces of the team win among countless others. This game in 2019 came as the first CUSA game of the season and was right on the heels of a big loss to Appalachian State, so between that and the home field advantage, some of the factors may be very different and Charlotte will need to maintain their momentum at the end of this season.