After defeating the hated FIU Panthers in the Shula Bowl by a dominating score of 58-21, head coach Willie Taggart [photo] and the Florida Atlantic Owls take on a new challenge: UAB. The Blazers won the C-USA Championship last year after falling 49-6 to the Owls in the title game in 2019.
Now, the two sides face off in what is considered by many to be a preview of the 2021 Conference USA title bout.
"You cannot deny the talent [they have]," Taggart said when asked about UAB. "In order to be the man you have to beat the man. Our guys understand what they're going up against and it's going to be like this for the rest of the season. It's not just this game, we gotta take one game at a time and I say this all the time, it's so important, we gotta focus on FAU."
Here's what else Taggart had to say on Monday heading into the C-USA heavyweight bout between the Owls and the Blazers this weekend:
On Team Morale After Shula Bowl Win "Everyone is excited, we're always excited after a win. It was just good to finally play well in all three phases and I think as a team and where we're at now, we're excited because we know what we're capable of doing but also excited because we know we can still play so much better than we did. Having that challenge to continue to do that and continue to fight to play at our best, it's always great and I think our guys are locked into trying to do that."
On Bringing Confidence From FIU Win To UAB "We gotta look back from the beginning of last week and why we played the way we did because of the way we prepared. Our guys gotta understand the way we prepared last week is the way we gotta prepare all the time. We gotta establish the game plan and we gotta play better, we gotta play fast. You watch our guys on Saturday and we're playing fast and making plays of that nature. That's our football team, that's the way we need to be going in on a roll against a really good opponent."
On Opening The Playbook To Trick Plays vs FIU "I think those first four games, we were kinda finding ourselves as an offense and identifying an identity of who we are and what we're going to be. I think as we went through those first four games, we saw what we're good at and what we weren't good at. I think against FIU, you saw us do the things that we're good at. I tried to do those things that we weren't good at, I thought the tempo made a huge difference, and I think over the first four games, whenever we did pick up the tempo, things took off."
On Big Plays To LaJohntay Wester, Je'Quan Burton "It's great because we run the ball and we have everyone running down to stop the run, so it makes it easy for those guys, sometimes it's not one on one anymore because those guys are fast, they run past people. They don't have to worry about the contesting catches. But it's good when you have guys who can make those contested catches as well when they go out there. When you can run the ball, usually people are trying to put eight guys in the box and will give you some one and one coverage and whenever we have a fast guy we like to take advantage of it."
On Injured Defensive Players "Decarious Hawthorne and Chris Jones both didn't play in that game, but they'll be back. Jaylen Joyner, he was beat up and he didn't practice that much last week, but I'm really proud and appreciate his toughness to go out and help his football team last week."