The FAU last faced Western Kentucky in a 52-17 loss in 2021.
The Florida Atlantic Owls (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) play the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 5-2 C-USA) at home on Saturday, November 26th. In the final match of the regular season, FAU has one last chance to qualify for the cup for the first time since 2020.
“We have to play like our lives depend on it,” head coach Willie Taggart said. “Now is the time to check the guts. He will check what is inside each of us. We have to train better, we have to play better. I believe in this football team and I believe they will come out and play better.”
FAU had a bowl opportunity last week against Middle Tennessee but fell apart in a 49-21 loss. FAU struggled away, finishing 1–5 in those games.
Luckily for the Owls, they will play Western Kentucky in Boca Raton, where they have a 4-1 record. Unfortunately for the Owls, they take on a team with a powerful offense.
Over the past two seasons, the Hilltoppers have had one of the most dynamic aerial attacks in college football. Last season, quarterback Bailey Zappe burned the opposition’s defense. This season they are led by senior quarterback Austin Reed.
Reed threw for 3,837 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, which is second and fourth in the NCAA, respectively. Under Reid, WKU is ranked third in the nation in passing.
“He has a very strong hand, he has a very fast release, he has some very talented receivers and a good offline,” Taggart said. “We have to do a great job of closing their receivers and rushing the passers. They are very talented, especially as a wide receiver.”
Sophomore wide receiver Malachi Corley was a major benefactor of Reed’s outstanding performance. This season, Corley has recorded 82 catches for 1,052 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He is seventh in the NCAA in receiving yards.
Senior wide receiver Dawood Davis is also having a good season. He recorded 63 catches for 872 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
Sophomore tight end Joshua Simon is one the FAU should really be looking at as he is one of Reed’s favorite targets in the red zone. This season, Simon has seven touchdowns in just 17 catches.
Although the FAU have struggled on defense this season, they are very adventurous. If the FAU can put enough pressure on Reed, they can force him to make mistakes.
WKU has questionable run defense and FAU junior running back Larry McCammon III has been confident all season. This season, McCammon III rushed for 877 yards and threw five touchdowns.
The FAU offensive line did a good job of opening up lanes for running backs. As long as McCammon and rookie running back Zuberi Mobley continue to get opportunities, they can keep the FAU in the game.
Quarterback N’Kozy Perry has been a solid player this year and will compete against an average WKU minor, but it’s unclear which version of Perry will emerge. He put in good numbers, but was inconsistent.
This season, Perry has thrown for 2,428 yards, 23 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He was also solid on the ground, with 227 yards and six touchdowns. If he can avoid costly mistakes, get the ball in the hands of his playmakers and play with his feet, he could give the FAU a chance at an upset situation.
“It is very important that we win this victory for many reasons. First of all, for our seniors… who have played so much and done so much for our program… and for our program and for where we are going to get the game in the bowl and build on it as we move into the future with our football. program,” Taggart said. “Last game of the year, you always want to win this game, so the level of importance of this football game is off the charts and our guys, our coaches are excited about the challenge ahead of us.”
The game is scheduled for Saturday, November 26 at noon and will air on CBS Sports Network.
Trey Avant is a staff writer at University Press. For information about this or other stories, please email [email protected] or email him @TreyAvant3.