“Really good passing team with a really good receiver,” Owls coach Lane Kiffin said.
Led by quarterback Jack Abraham, who has thrown for a conference-high 3,147 yards on the season, Southern Miss also features junior playmaking receiver Quez Watkins, the only receiver in the conference with over 1000 yards on the season. FAU has taken notice to them both.
“A lot of film study on how he throws deep balls and how his receivers react to his deep balls,” cornerback Chris Tooley said. “A lot of film study.”
Despite the effectiveness of the passing attack, Southern Miss struggles on the interception side. The Golden Eagles have thrown 11 interceptions on the season placing them tied for 100th in the nation. The Owls can capitalize on the turnovers as they are second in the nation in interceptions.
Mesh routes – crossing routes over the middle of the field where receivers who began the play on opposite sides of the field pass each other downfield – are at the heart of the Southern Miss defense. The routes can lead to confusion in the middle of the field, often causing defenders to collide, thereby allowing a receiver run free.
“Communication is really big in a game like this,”Tooley said. “Everybody making sure everybody is on the same page is key.”
The biggest question surrounding Abraham is not his competence, it’s his health. Abraham left the Golden Eagles’ last game with a left leg injury and is currently questionable. Coach Jay Hopson said earlier this week that the team won’t announce the status of Abraham.
If Abraham can not go, Southern Miss will rely on Tate Whatley, who started two games for the Golden Eagles last season. The Golden Eagles’ uncertainty at quarterback is not affecting how the Owls prepare for the game.
“Been preparing the same way, just honed in our technique and just knowing that there going to pass the ball and are especially good at passing it,” cornerback Meiko Dotson said.
In addition to the uncertainty, the Golden Eagles may be without receiver Jaylond Adams for the third consecutive game with an unknown injury. Adams has 48 receptions for 483 yards and two touchdowns in nine games played.
FAU has only allowed three teams to throw the ball for over 300 yards in a game.