Bowl eligibility on the line in 49ers home finale

Charlottes Senior Day clash with Middle Tennessee will kick off at 2 p.m.

Chuck Cook—USA Today Sports
Charlotte 49ers quarterback Hasaan Klugh (16) looks to throw against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the first half at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Charlotte’s final home game of the season promises to be an emotional one for the senior-laden 49ers (4-6, 3-3 Conference-USA). Every team enters its Senior Day with extra motivation, but Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee (6-4, 3-3 C-USA) will be especially meaningful for a group that arrived on campus before Jerry Richardson Stadium had even been completed.”When we came in on our official visit, we were in hard hats looking at the stadium, seeing how everything was starting to blossom and starting to grow,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Jamal Covington said. “Coming out of that tunnel for the last time as a Charlotte 49er, it’s going to be very surreal.”Charlotte’s roster includes 19 redshirt seniors who have been with the program since the 2012 season, which they spent practicing ahead of the program’s inaugural campaign in 2013. Those players entered their final season, and second in C-USA, without a victory in conference play. But a midseason turnaround sparked by a quarterback change has put the 49ers in the mix for a bowl game. With victories over Middle Tennessee and Texas-San Antonio in the season finale, Charlotte will be bowl eligible.The 49ers enter Saturday’s game winners of three of the last five. In both losses, Charlotte led by double digits before losing by one, 28-27 to Florida International and 22-21 to Rice, which trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. Saturday presents more than an opportunity to keep bowl hopes alive and give the seniors a memorable finish. Charlotte also has a chance to notch its first C-USA win in front of its home fans, as each of the team’s conference wins this season have come on the road.ONE TO WATCH To knock off the Blue Raiders, the 49ers will need another strong effort from a front seven that has been stout recently. Charlotte has held three of its last four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, but Middle Tennessee’s I’Tavius Mathers is as dangerous as anyone the 49ers have faced. The senior has already rushed for 1,190 yards and 13 touchdowns through 10 games, and reeled off six consecutive games with at least 100 yards earlier this year. Mathers rushed for a total of more than 1,000 yards in three years at Ole Miss before transferring to Middle Tennessee for his final season. In addition to his success as a runner, Mathers has caught 54 passes on the year, including three touchdowns.