49ers face mir­ror image in Mar­shall with a strong run­ner, rush de­fense

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY DAVID SCOTT

dscott@char­lot­teob­server.com

Sat­ur­day’s Char­lotte-Mar­shall foot­ball game at the Thun­der­ing Herd’s Ed­wards Sta­dium in Hunt­ing­ton, W.Va., will match the top two rush­ing de­fenses in Con­fer­ence USA.

It will also fea­ture two of the league’s best run­ning backs in the 49ers’ Benny Le­May and Mar­shall’s Tyler King.

So it will be a strength vs. strength af­fair be­tween the 49ers (4- 5, 3-2 C-USA) and Herd (5-3, 3-2), both which still have shots at the league’s East Divi­sion ti­tle.

“There is no doubt that we are very sim­i­lar teams at this point,” said Mar­shall coach Doc Hol­l­i­day at his weekly news con­fer­ence. “It’s go­ing to be a bat­tle of de­fense.”

The 49ers have been stout on rush­ing de­fense all sea­son, lim­it­ing op­po­nents to 82.0 yards. That ranks No. 1 in the league and sixth na­tion­ally. It be­gan with hold­ing Ford­ham to mi­nus-9 yards in the sea­son opener through Ten­nessee’s 20 yards last week and mostly ev­ery­where in be­tween. The 49ers haven’t al­lowed a rush­ing touch­down in their past three games.

“Some­thing (de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Glenn) Spencer tells us is: Don’t drink the poi­son,” said 49ers ju­nior linebacker Jeff Gem­mell, who has 6.5 tack­les for loss this sea­son. “What that means is you’ve got peo­ple say­ing, ‘Oh, you guys did this against Ten­nessee’s of­fen­sive line.’ But we’ve got some great of­fen­sive lines in Con­fer­ence USA, as well. We just have to keep on do­ing what we know how to do and not get too over­con­fi­dent and just know we still have a lot of work to do.”

The Herd has been nearly as good stop­ping the run, av­er­ag­ing 103.5 yards in rush­ing de­fense (sec­ond be­hind the 49ers in the league and 13th na­tion­ally). Mar­shall hasn’t al­lowed a run of more than 30 yards this sea­son.

Le­May, who av­er­ages 91.8 yards per game and has 826 to­tal, has four runs of 30-plus yards, in­clud­ing a 58-yarder against Ford­ham and a 57-yarder against Mid­dle Ten­nessee.

“He is a very phys­i­cal player,” Hol­l­i­day said of Le­May. “He is sim­i­lar to (FAU’s Devin) Sin­gle­tary (C-USA’s lead­ing rusher).

BEN­JAMIN ROBSON

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