Traditionally one of Conference USA’s powers and likely the conference school with the most national recognition nationally, walking away from Huntington, W. Va., with a victory is never easy.
Marshall’s Edwards stadium is generally packed with rabid fans who can impact the game.
“They don’t have an NFL team,” said FAU wide receiver Jovon Durante, who began his college career playing at West Virginia. “They have diehard fans so it’s going to be a crowded house. And the fans are diehard. They’re going to try to take us out of the game, do whatever they could to try to take us out of the game – probably throw stuff at us.”
FAU lost both games played at Marshall in the five-game series history, and the Thundering Herd gave the Owls their toughest Conference USA game last season – a 30-25 Owls victory in Boca Raton.
What can FAU expect on Saturday? Each week our Chuck King and Wajih AlBaroudi offer our Bold Predictions for that week’s game. Here’s what we expect from FAU vs. Marshall this week.
FAU OFFENSE vs. MARSHALL
King: Chris Robison goes deep. Devin Singletary rushed for more than 200 yards against Marshall last season, but the Thundering Herd’s rushing defense has been more effective this season. Marshall does a better job slowing Singletary and the Owls’ rushing attack, forcing Robison to beat them through the air. FAU’s offense looked downfield two weekends ago in a victory over ODU. Robison continues to build on that, connecting on multiple deep shots against a suspect Marshall secondary, including the Owls’ first TD pass – first scrimmage play of any kind – this season to cover more than 50 yards.
AlBaroudi: Kerrith Whyte scores a receiving touchdown. He has only four receptions on the year, but Whyte has a chance to dominate via the air this Saturday in what looks to be a golden matchup for talented pass-catching running backs like himself. Marshall has been gashed out of the backfield over the past two weeks, ceding 12 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns to running backs over that stretch. Once Whyte gets the ball in open space, he is a instant threat to take it the distance. And Marshall has yet to prove it can contain a skill set like that.
FAU DEFENSE vs. MARSHALL
King: Marshall gashes FAU’s run defense. The Thundering Herd live up to their nickname on Saturday against an FAU defense that has some big questions to answer, starting with the availability of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair – the defense’s leader. The bye week helped FAU players get their legs under them, but the Owls remain banged up at significant positions. Marshall is expecting starting RB Keion Davis back. Last week his backup, Tyler King, rushed for 195 yards and two scores. If FAU is going to win this game, it’s going to need a big output from its offense.
AlBaroudi: FAU’s secondary intercepts two passes. Whether Isaiah Green or Alex Thomson line up behind center for Marshall, one thing has remained constant from the Thundering Herd passing game: a tendency to turn over the football. Marshall has thrown at least one interception in five-straight games, tying a Conference-USA high with its eight interceptions on the year. The Owls’ defensive backs picked off two passes in a Week 6 win over Old Dominion after failing to corral a single one before that game. They will keep the momentum rolling with another pair this Saturday.
FAU WILDCARD vs. MARSHALL
King: FAU plays with emotion, and at times the emotion will get the better of the Owls. As Durante’s quote above indicates, the Owls are expecting a hostile environment on Saturday. FAU players and coaches are frustrated with the way the season started in general and with C-USA officiating in particular. Marshall is a physical team, and there’s no reason to expect C-USA officials to suddenly improve. Marshall players and fans will try to goad FAU players into losing their cool. At times they’ll succeed.
AlBaroudi: FAU cleans up its penalty problem. For the Owls to come out of Huntington, W. Va., with a win, they must play mistake-free football. FAU leads C-USA in penalties on the year (51) by a wide margin, the No. 2 team being UTEP, which trails by eight. Marshall has taken advantage of similar miscues this season, ranking No. 3 among C-USA teams in drawing opponent penalties (43). Playing at Marshall is a difficult environment already – FAU has never won there before – so the Owls can’t afford to give up free yards. Coming out of the bye week, the Owls will play more disciplined and keep the officials’ flags at bay.