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Marshall offensive lineman Will Ulmer (50) blocks against a Charlotte defender during the game in 2019.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s football team hopes not to be experiencing deja vu at the end of the weekend.

In 2019, the Thundering Herd went to Charlotte with control of Conference USA’s East Division in its own hands. Meanwhile, the 49ers were desperate to earn their first bowl appearance.

That ended with Charlotte out-executing Marshall en route to a 24-13 win that ended any hopes of a conference championship for the Herd.

As Marshall gets set for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. battle with the 49ers, the scenarios are strikingly similar.

Again, the Herd has control of its own East Division destiny, and Charlotte is on the cusp of a bowl berth as the teams meet in a game televised by Stadium.

Marshall (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself against the 49ers.

“That’s something I haven’t forgotten about and a lot of our leadership hasn’t forgotten about,” Marshall offensive lineman Will Ulmer said. “I’m just excited because of the opportunity that we put ourselves in.”

For Marshall to get a win on Saturday, it needs to take care of two main issues — one on each side of the football — that have plagued the team in 2021.

Offensively, quarterback Grant Wells must execute in key situations, avoiding turnovers while also improving on third downs — an area where Marshall struggled mightily in last week’s 21-14 loss to UAB. The Herd offense was just 1 of 12 in those situations against the Blazers.

Defensively, Marshall must eliminate the big plays that have been a constant. When it comes down to meaningful games at the end of the season, those three or four plays that the Herd has surrendered can be the difference. They were last week against UAB.

On both sides of the football, Marshall head coach Charles Huff is calling for consistent 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 1 for 12 on third down is definitely not executing consistently.”

With both teams coming into the game off losses, each will be eager to get the bitter taste out of their mouths.

Charlotte (5-5, 3-3 C-USA), which fell 42-32 at Louisiana Tech last week, has one last chance for its seniors to play at Richardson Stadium in front of the home crowd, meaning there will be an energy about Senior Day.

One of those seniors for the 49ers is quarterback Chris Reynolds, who tore the Marshall defense apart in both facets in the 2019 win. In that game, Reynolds rushed for 145 yards and a score in a driving rain while throwing for two scores.

Reynolds will be a focal point of the Herd defense on Saturday. Marshall must find ways to get Reynolds and the Charlotte offense off the field, an aspect that plagued the Herd in the loss to UAB.

Huff said from the beginning that the goal for Marshall is to close the gap on winning a championship.

The biggest hurdle for Marshall to date stares the Herd in the face on Saturday when the team hits the road in hopes of setting up a winner-take-all battle in the regular-season finale next week against Western Kentucky.

In each of the last two years, Marshall has been close to a title but not gotten its prize.

Huff would like to end his first season by turning that around.

“This is not horseshoes or hand grenades,” Huff said. “You don’t get points for being close.”

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch and covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.