HUNTINGTON — The scouting reports for Marshall football’s contest against Charlotte on Saturday could have read more like a biographical sheet. In addition to tendencies, it could have included where the person grew up, went to high school, how many siblings a player had and their favorite food.
That’s how well the Thundering Herd knows its upcoming opponent in the 49ers, who host Marshall in a key Conference USA East Division showdown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Jerry Richardson Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Marshall defensive coordinator Brad Lambert served as head coach of Charlotte from 2011-18 and Lambert had two current Herd assistants — offensive line coach Greg Adkins (2017) and cornerbacks coach Chip West (2018) — on his staff during his tenure.
That means the Herd is well aware of the challenges it will face in Saturday’s contest, which will be streamed on Stadium’s Facebook page.
“You just look at them from top to bottom, Brad won five games there a year ago,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “They have a lot of seniors and juniors who are playing a lot of good football for them.”
Charlotte (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) comes into the game on a three-game winning streak under first-year head coach Will Healy, who inherited a veteran group from Lambert and has them bought in to his vision.
In leading up to the game, Healy was open about Lambert’s contributions to the success that the 49ers are currently seeing as they get set to face him this week.
“I don’t think he has any regrets because he developed true relationships with these guys and players,” Healy said. “They respect him; they loved playing for him. I think he did a tremendous job of starting a program.
“Our job is to try and take it to the next level, but we’ve inherited a really good program and he deserves all the credit for that.”
The matchup features a pair of teams that have plenty to play for in front of them. Marshall (7-3, 5-1 C-USA) is on top of Conference USA’s East Division. With Florida Atlantic on its heels, the Herd needs to win out to clinch the division and earn a berth in the Conference USA championship game.
Charlotte (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) is looking to secure bowl eligibility for the first time, which would also ensure the program’s first non-losing regular season. Both would be major accomplishments in Healy’s first year.
Marshall comes in on a five-game winning streak while Charlotte has won three straight. Add in Senior Day festivities for the 49ers and it makes for what should be an emotional atmosphere on Saturday.
Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds discussed that atmosphere earlier this week.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun getting to play for something in November,” Reynolds said. “There are going to be a lot of people out there, but in this building, we are treating it like another game. We have to go out and execute what we need to do. I think everybody knows the task at hand and knows what needs to be done.”
Reynolds has been at the center of Charlotte’s recent win streak, completing 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 882 yards, rushing for another 290 and combining for eight touchdowns.
Lambert, who offered Reynolds his only Division I scholarship opportunity, said the sophomore’s play is not surprising, considering his talent level.
“The No. 1 thing he does, he’s really good at creating when he gets out on the move,” Lambert said. “We saw that early on when he was a young guy redshirting. He’s really a pretty accurate passer when he’s on the move.”
Reynolds’ play has been more impressive, considering the team has not had senior running back Benny LeMay, one of Conference USA’s top rushers, due to injury in the past two games. With LeMay reportedly doubtful for Saturday’s contest, Reynolds again will have to elevate his level if the 49ers are to upset the Herd.
Marshall’s defense is looking to keep Reynolds from establishing a rhythm.
“They know us and we know them, so it’s about executing the game plan,” Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett said. “The quarterback is a good runner and coach will tell you, ‘Don’t sleep on him.’ Physically, he’s not going to pop out to you, but he’s going to make plays.”
With the level of familiarity on each side, Saturday’s game will likely come down to one simple factor: execution.
The team that executes the best on Saturday will be one step closer to its season goals.