Tuesday morning football? Charlotte 49ers embrace challenge in season filled with so many schedule changes

By Richard Walker

After having six games canceled or postponed this season, it’s understandable that Charlotte 49ers coach Will Healy and his team are frustrated by navigating a season like no other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That doesn’t mean the team hasn’t quit preparing as if it will play more games this season.

And after having all four of its November games wiped away, that’ll start with a 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning Conference USA home matchup against Western Kentucky. The game was moved from Saturday in order to give Charlotte 49ers players a chance to play due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols.

“We didn’t play a game in the month of November,” Charlotte 49ers coach Will Healy said Friday in a zoom news conference. “Usually, we say we want our team to remember Novemeber. Well, this November has been something and now we’ll have to steal that slogan, ‘Let’s have a December to remember.'”

Charlotte has a game next Saturday at home against Florida International that had previously been scheduled for Oct. 3. And the 49ers are hopeful postponed games at Middle Tennessee (Nov. 7) and Marshall (Nov. 21) can be rescheduled.

“The toughest challenge for me is that I’ve had to stand up in front of this team six times knowing I’m going to disappoint them,” Healy said of meetings informing his players of six postponed or canceled games so far this season. “You want them to be rewarded because they’ve done everything the right way.”

Due to the team’s inactivity since a 53-19 loss at Duke on Oct. 31, Healy said his team is the healthiest its been all year.

But he says the repeated schedule alterations weigh heavily on him and his team.

“If there’s anything this year has taught us, it’s that you have to prepare for anything,” Healy said. “The biggest point I’d like to make is that our guys just want to play games.”

Playing at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday is certainly unusual but given that the team regularly practices in the morning, Healy is hopeful the 49ers will be ready to go at kickoff.

“Only in 2020 would you think about 10:30 a.m. for a game,” said Healy, whose team regularly practices at 8:30 a.m. “It’s something we should be familiar with, but obviously playing a 10:30 a.m. game is something different.”

The unusual kickoff time for a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network will give the 49ers a unique opportunity as the only college football game in the country at that time.

“Playing on TV is big,” Healy said. “Getting exposure and promoting our brand is great for our program.”

Tuesday’s game:

Western Kentucky (4-6, 3-3) at Charlotte (2-3, 2-1)
When: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday (CBS Sports Network, Radio-ESPN 730 AM in Charlotte)
Where: Jerry Richardson Stadium
Series: Western Kentucky leads series 2-1

Extra points: Entering Saturday’s games, Charlotte is one of just three teams in Conference USA with one or less league losses; The others are East Division rivals Marshall (4-0) and Florida Atlantic (4-1)….
Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds ranks fourth in the league in total offense (227.0 yards per game) and fifth in pass efficiency (134.9 rating)….
Charlotte ranks sixth in the league in total offense (391.6 yards per game) and ninth in total defense (416.2 yards allowed per game).

Local connections: Tre Harbison (2016 Crest graduate) is the 49ers leading rusher with 257 yards and four touchdowns on 64 carries in five games (four starts). Cameron Dollar (East Lincoln 2018) has nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns in five games (three starts). Calvin Camp (Shelby 2017) has 64 yards rushing and one touchdown, seven kickoff returns for 115 yards and has two tackles in five games. Gage Welborn (East Lincoln 2018) has played in three games. And Prince Bemah (Hunter Huss 2019) and D.J. Bagwell (Kings Mountain 2020) have yet to play in any games.

Next up: Charlotte hosts Florida International on Saturday Dec. 5 at noon.