BOCA RATON – Coming off the most lopsided conference loss of the Lane Kiffin era, the Owls have a chance to stop the bleeding early on Friday night when they host Louisiana Tech.
But the visiting Bulldogs are by no means an easy team to rebound against.
Louisiana Tech is second in Conference USA West, its only conference loss of the season being to the division-leading UAB Blazers.
The Bulldogs play disciplined and are well-coached, committing a conference-low 29 penalties on the year. Contrast that with FAU, which has the most penalties in Conference USA (59).
Despite their shortcomings on the road – winless in four games and a minus-94 point differential – FAU been dominant on its own turf.
The Owls are undefeated at home this season and have outscored opponents 134-to-88 in games at FAU Stadium. They will need to continue that trend against a solid road team in Louisiana Tech.
There hasn’t been a drop-off in energy from the Bulldogs when they leave Ruston, falling to heavy favorite No. 2 LSU by only 17 and upsetting then-undefeated North Texas in Denton.
FAU has a chance to get its season back on track this Friday. It will take a valiant effort to overcome its multitude of injuries and a short turnaround to do so.
THE FILE: FAU (3-4, 1-2) Louisiana Tech (5-2, 3-1)
LOUISIANA TECH OFFENSE
The Bulldogs have a middle-of-the-pack offense, scoring 29.0 points per game this season – No. 6 in Conference USA. They are one of the more balanced teams in the conference, ranking in the top-eight in both total passing and rushing but failing to crack the top-five in either category. Louisiana Tech spreads the touches evenly in its three-headed backfield of Jaqwis Dancy, Israel Tucker and Kam McKnight, each player garnering more than fifty carries through seven games. Dual threat quarterback J’Mar Smith is a factor on the ground as well, picking up 125 yards and two touchdowns with his legs on the year.
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH:
6, Adrian Hardy, R-So, WR: Ranking No. 5 in Conference USA with 579 receiving yards, Hardy is a downfield threat that pairs perfectly with Tech’s slot man and underneath target Teddy Veal. Hardy’s 17.0 yards per catch is tops among the conference’s top-10 receiving leaders. He leads his team in touchdown catches with five on the year.
23, Jaqwis Dancy, R-Jr, RB: Among Conference USA players with 50-plus attempts, Dancy is second behind only Kerrith Whyte in yards per carry (6.2). He is Tech’s leading rusher with 369 yards and five touchdowns on the year. Dancy is a big play waiting to happen, having raced for a 61-yard again in Week 1 against South Alabama.
8, J’Mar Smith, R-Jr, QB: A threat as both a runner and a passer, Smith is exactly the type of quarterback FAU has struggled to defend. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and UCF’s McKenzie Milton took advantage of the Owls’ inconsistent pocket containment earlier this season. Smith has thrown six interceptions through seven games – he threw five total in 2017. Last year Smith went 30-of-51 for 326 yards and a touchdown against FAU.
LOUISIANA TECH DEFENSE
The Bulldogs rank top-six in both pass (202.1) and run (146.0) defense on the year. Their lack of glaring holes as a unit making them difficult to game plan against offensively. Finding the end zone through the air has been a struggle for Tech’s opponents this year, as the Bulldogs have allowed a conference-low seven passing touchdowns. Finding paydirt on the ground has been a more effective plan of attack. La. Tech allowed15 rushing touchdowns through seven games – tied for fourth worst in C-USA.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH:
45, Jaylon Ferguson, R-Sr, DE: A human freight train coming off the edge, Ferguson has a speed-size combination that gives opposing quarterbacks nightmares. He is the nation’s leader in sacks (9.5) this season, holds Tech’s all-time record in that category and is the NCAA’s current active career sack leader. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Ferguson has 31 tackles on the year, with 11.5 coming for a loss. He also forced fumble. His pass rushing impact is felt regardless of whether he picks up the sack or not, notching eight quarterback hits and batting down two passes on the year.
21, Amik Robertson, So, CB: After breaking out as a freshman last season, Robertson has carried his elite-level play into his sophomore campaign. While teams are now trying to avoid to his side of the field, Robertson is still tied for Tech’s lead in pass breakups (six), and has picked off a pass. The 5-foot-9 corner is no slouch in run support, either, picking up 27 tackles with one coming for a loss.
10, James Jackson, R-Jr, S: The Bulldog’s second-leading tackler with 39 stops on the year, Jackson is a versatile player with skills to play in the box as a run defender while also being reliable in coverage. He is aggressive in attacking the line of scrimmage, 4.5 of his tackles accounting for a loss. Jackson earned C-USA defensive player of the week honors for his performance against South Alabama, a game in which he had six tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and half a sack in his team’s win.