That’s what happened on Saturday – in blowout fashion. Now the Owls welcome Western Kentucky to Howard Schnellenberger Field for a homecoming tussle.
FAU needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible. Western Kentucky’s fate is already sealed. At 1-8, the Hilltoppers will head home long before kickoff of the season’s first bowl game.
What can FAU fans expect against WKU? 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. WKU this week.
FAU Offense vs. WKU
King: The Owls finally hit explosive plays. Nine games into the season, FAU’s longest play from scrimmage covered only 49 yards. That changes on Saturday. Now that FAU is once again running the ball with power and consistency, defenses have to commit additional players to stopping Devin Singletary and Kerrith Whyte. Toss quarterback De’Andre Johnson’s explosive running ability into the mix – he’ll play and might start – and defenses focus even more on the run. This allows FAU quarterbacks, both Johnson and Chris Robison, to look deep off play action. Wide receiver Jovon Durante and tight end Harrison Bryant are the biggest beneficiaries. John Mitchell may also get free. And is this the week DeSean Holmes or LaDante Harrris finally delivers big play? Could be.
AlBaroudi: Quarterbacks Chris Robison and De’Andre Johnson both impress. After last week’s exhilarating performance in the Shula Bowl, Johnson proved he was worthy of a role in FAU’s offense going forward. But that doesn’t mean Robison, the Owls’ starter, can’t join in the fun as well. FAU coach Lane Kiffin brought up the idea of playing two quarterbacks this week, and against a solid but unspectacular Western Kentucky defense, they both have potential to light up the scoreboard. Robison will pass for two touchdowns and Johnson will add a rushing score.
FAU Defense vs. WKU
King: Jalen Young intercepts two passes. Picks tend to come in bunches for Young, who last season tied for second nationally with seven interceptions. He picked off one pass during Saturday’s Shula Bowl and should feast on a young and battered WKU QB unit that has under-performed all season. It wouldn’t be surprising for Rashad Smith to add another pick to his team-leading total, and Ocie Rose always has a nose for the ball.
AlBaroudi: Jaylen Joyner has a big game. FAU hasn’t gotten a ton of production from the defensive tackle position this season, opening up an opportunity for the talented freshman to earn more playing time down the stretch. The reeling Hilltoppers will likely fall behind early, forcing them to go pass-heavy to keep up with the Owls. And Western Kentucky being in those obvious passing situations means Joyner will have plenty of chances to tee off on the passer. He will have a sack and three-plus tackles.
FAU Wildcard vs. WKU
King: Some unheralded players make contributions on Saturday. Defensive tackle Damian Horton recorded two tackles two weeks ago against La. Tech. He’ll increase that total on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore defensive end David Belvin has only one career tackle – that coming last week at FIU – but he saw some time with the second team defensive line this week. Wajih noted above Joyner’s recent surge at defensive tackle. Offensively, FAU elevated Jordan Merrell from the scout team to the slot receiver rotation in case Willie Wright (concussion) can’t play. With FAU building a hefty second-half lead, Merrell makes his first career catch. And with a berth in Conference USA’s championship game no longer a possibility, meaning there are only four games remaining on the schedule, any player who has yet to play a game this season can play in the remaining four games and still count this season as a redshirt year.
AlBaroudi: FAU passes the ball less than 15 times. As they showed last week, the Owls are at their best when they lean on the ground game. Running backs Singletary and Whyte have been nothing short of spectacular this season, and the FAU offensive line has been road grading defenses of late. The Owls ran the ball 28 times to only six passes in a second half against FIU which saw them outscore the Panthers 35-7. Not only does that style work in and of itself, it also opens up the play-action pass game for Robison and Johnson. Expect to see that same winning formula this Saturday.