Western Kentucky won more games against FBS opponents on Florida Atlantic’s home field last year than FAU did.
One of those Hilltopper wins, a 52-3 blowout of the Owls on homecoming weekend, served as the low point in yet another dreadful season.
“It was just like every other week last year,” said nickel back Herb Miller, describing the mood in the locker room following that game. “It was upsetting.”
During their recent run of success, the Owls took the field each week in search of respect. Against Middle Tennessee they drew upon the residual anger from the previous season’s 77-56 humiliating loss.
Old Dominion shellacked FAU in the second half of last season’s game to hand the Owls another embarrassing loss in a game they felt they should have won.
North Texas publicly voiced the belief that the Mean Green were too good a football team to be FAU’s homecoming opponent this season.
FAU built all those embarrassments and slights, both real and perceived, into a mountain of anger, mining it to fuel an on-field ferocity that resulted in three consecutive wins.
“We’ve been playing pissed off the whole year,” defensive tackle Steven Leggett said. “Everybody who beat us last year, Hey, it’s time. It’s time to get revenge or whatever you want to call it.”
FAU vs WKU: Thinking Revenge
Revenge is once again on the minds of the Owls.
“Of course it’s another revenge game, another game that we lost last year that a lot of guys are probably amped up to get their payback,” running back Buddy Howell said.
Western Kentucky’s demolition of FAU last season started the momentum that led to the firing of Owls’ coach Charlie Partridge. The Hilltoppers didn’t take any prisoners.
FAU players remember that game, but they are equally focused on what this year’s team is accomplishing.
“They just beat us,” quarterback Jason Driskel said. “They beat us in three phases of the game last year. We know that. They know that. We’ve just got to continue what we’re doing now, not worry about what happened last year.”
The Hilltoppers cruised through the regular season last year, winning the Conference USA title, then defeating Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl to claim their second victory of the season on Howard Schnellenberger Field.
Western Kentucky hasn’t been as dominant this year. With coach Jeff Brohm leaving the Kentucky hills to take over Purdue, Mike Sanford’s new staff has the Hilltoppers at 5-2, riding a four-game winning streak. The Hilltoppers’ three Conference USA wins during that streak came against bottom dwellers UTEP, Charlotte and Old Dominion They boast the nation’s No. 20 passing offenses but also a running game that’s failed to gain traction.
Meanwhile, FAU is soaring. The Owls are averaging 55.0 points during their current three-game winning streak. Their defense is taking the ball away and making the stops when needed. FAU’s three conference wins include last week’s 69-31 demolition of West Division leader North Texas.
As a team the Owls are growing up, putting teams away and gaining confidence along the way.
They’ve been crossing names off the list of teams who shamed them in recent years. Western Kentucky is the next name on that list.
“It’s like going and you get into a fight with a whole bunch of kids and you’re by yourself and you get beat up, and then you come back later with all your friends and you go back and fight them again and you start winning,” linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair said. “That’s how it feels.”