Marshall travels to Charlotte this weekend in hopes of remaining in the Conference USA East Division Race

It’s win or else time for the Marshall Thundering Herd football team Saturday as the Herd plays on the road for the final time in the 2021 regular season, taking on Charlotte.

The game kicks off at 3:30 pm at Jerry Richardson Stadium and it will be shown nationally on Stadium.

Marshall (6-4, 4-2) had a 4-game winning streak snapped last week at home by UAB by a 21-14 score, while Charlotte (5-5, 3-3) fell at Louisiana Tech 42-34.

Saturday’s game is the 100th in the 49ers program history, a program that began in 2013 with a 52-7 win over Campbell. 

Both teams have much to play for this week. A Marshall victory would keep the Herd’s hopes alive for a Conference USA East Division title, but only if MU can beat both Charlotte this week and Western Kentucky next week, a game which will be played at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Charlotte will become bowl-eligible with one more win.

WKU has a one-game lead over Marshall in the divisional standings. The Hilltoppers host Florida Atlantic on Saturday before traveling to Huntington to face the Herd on November 27th.

The Herd and 49ers have met 5 previous times and Marshall has won three of the contests. The teams last met in 2019, a game played in a rainstorm in Charlotte, and won by the 49ers by a 24-13 score.

Will Healy is in his 3rd season as Charlotte’s head coach and he has a 9-10 record with the 49ers.

This week’s biggest matchup may be Charlotte redshirt senior quarterback Chris Reynolds against the Marshall defense. 

Reynolds, Charlotte’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and passing yards, has been on fire lately and is coming off a performance in the Louisiana Tech loss which included a school-record 448 passing yards with two passing touchdowns and one on the ground. Reynolds has also thrown for over 300 yards in wins over Duke and Middle Tennessee State.

Reynolds’ main target is redshirt senior Victor Tucker, the second-leading receiver in school history for both yardage and touchdowns. He’s caught 44 passes this season for 587 yards and two touchdowns. He’s joined by sophomore Grant DuBose, who has 728 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. The 49ers’ main run threat is redshirt senior Calvin Camp, who has 500 net yards on the ground and three scores.

Marshall Head Coach Charles Huff says the Herd defense is looking to rebound after struggles in the UAB game when the Blazers were 9 of 17 on 3rd down conversions, keeping the Herd offense off the field. Marshall was only 1 of 12 on 3rd down conversions.

He says it’s all about execution.

“When we executed consistently, we moved the ball and stopped them on defense,” Huff said. “When we didn’t, we gave up big plays on defense and obviously being one for 12 on third down is definitely not executing consistently. If we put it all together moving forward, we have a chance to do some really good things.”

Charlotte Coach Will Healy says that he and his staff have done some soul-searching this week after giving up big numbers in the Louisiana Tech loss such as 504 total yards for the Bulldogs. 

“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement and we have a short time to get there,” Healy said. “This will be a big week of preparation and playing a great football team.”

Notes: Former Marshall Defensive Assistant Coach J.C. Price was named Tuesday as interim head coach at Virginia Tech. Price, a Tech alumnus, replaces Justin Fuente, who was fired three days after the Hokies beat Duke 48-17. Price coached Marshall’s defensive line starting in 2012, but he was not retained by the Thundering Herd after former head coach Doc Holliday’s dismissal and the hiring of  Huff as head coach.

-Bill Cornwell