Matchup: FAU (1-3, 0-0 AAC) vs Tulsa (3-2, 1-0 AAC)
When: Saturday, October 7th, 6:00 PM
Where: Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium
Live Reactions: YouTube
Radio: FoxSports 640
Opening Line: FAU -3.5
Weather Forecast: Current conditions in Boca Raton, FL
The Series: This will be the Owls' third matchup in program history against Tulsa, going 1-1 in their two previous encounters. FAU is 3-6 all-time against AAC opponents.
Tulsa Team Site: Here
Getting their first win in conference play as a member of the American would be a great start for the Owls.
FAU enters this matchup with a fully rested and retooled mindset, withstanding three consecutive losses to Ohio, Clemson, and Illinois. Despite these defeats, they have shown progress in coming together as a unit and becoming scrappy on the defensive side of the ball.
The Owls last faced Tulsa in 2014 and 2015, winning the first contest 50-21 at home before falling 47-44 in overtime the following year in Oklahoma. Notable alumni from those games include the likes of Jaquez Johnson, Greg Howell, Jay Warren, Jenson Stoshak, Sharrod Neasman, Jalen Young, Herb Miller, Brandin Bryant, and Trey Hendrickson.
There has been one player who has made a significant leap in their development with the Owls: Marlon Bradley (pictured below via Noah Goldberg). The defensive end made seven tackles (four solo) and grabbed a pair of sacks against Illinois, as he eclipsed the number of tackles he made throughout the entirety of last season.
"He is another guy that is in that category of veterans that is really dedicated to his craft and really enjoys being coached. He wants feedback, he wants criticism, and he wants to be great," head coach Tom Herman said on Bradley.
Lajohntay Wester is likely to have a lot of Tulsa's eyes on him via multiple double-teams. The wide receiver is on a streak that has him reaching 100 or more receiving yards in three consecutive contests, as he looks to extend it to four against the Tulsa defense. He has another streak going on that has him making 10 or more receptions for three straight games as well. Wester leads the country in total receptions with 43, is second in receptions per game with 10.8, and 17th in total receiving yards with 401.
It could also be expected for the Owls' run game to come out with a lot of energy, especially after failing to reach 100 or more rushing yards in three straight games following the 213 yards they had against Monmouth. Getting a week's worth of rest after sustaining injuries for the past couple of weeks with Zuberi Mobley going down with a season-ending shoulder injury, having Larry McCammon III and Kobe Lewis in solid condition to make big gains on their carries would be a big help for FAU to be successful on Saturday night.
The Owls go back on the road but will remain in-state as they head up to Tampa to play USF on October 14th at a time to be determined.
Star Watch: QB Daniel Richardson Taking the bull by the horns after Casey Thompson went down for the rest of the year, Richardson displayed significant improvements with his decision-making from the Clemson game to Illinois. He threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 28 completed passes out of 49 attempts against the Fighting Illini. He will surely look to take advantage of Tulsa's major weakness in defending the passing game, allowing 295.4 yards per game, placing themselves in the bottom 10 (eighth-worst) of the nation.
Final Word Getting the run game going, especially with Larry McCammon III and Kobe Lewis fully rested with the bye week under their belts, should be a top priority for the Owls, even if Tulsa has shown they can defend the run at a decent rate. Forcing Tulsa to pass the ball more frequently to prevent them from being successful with their run game would open up opportunities for FAU to make interceptions, especially with Golden Hurricane Cardell Williams having thrown five of them so far this season.
With what turned out to be a tough non-conference schedule now behind them, FAU should take pride in the fact that they have prepared themselves to not underestimate their competition, to come onto the field with a lot of energy, and show their fans and fellow conference opponents why they are in the American to begin with.
Key Stats Comparison
Golden Hurricane Notes
Projected to finish 11th in the American accordng to their Preseason Media Poll, Tulsa might be overachieving at this point of the season.
Sustaining expected defeats to Washington and Oklahoma, the Golden Hurricane had wins over Arkansas Pine Bluff, Northern Illinois, and Temple to enter the midpoint of the season with at least a .500 winning percentage or better depending on their result against FAU.
Tulsa has a strong preference in having a diverse run game, having five players with 100 or more rushing yards. Anthony Watkins and Jordan Ford headline as the leading tailbacks, as the former rushed for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 78 carries and the latter has 237 yards and a touchdown on 57 carries. Watkins' total yardage has him at 36th in the country, showing himself and Ford as the main running backs that FAU will have to keep in check.
Since starting quarterback Braylon Braxton suffered an ankle injury in the opener that has sidelined him for the last four games and currently has a day-to-day status heading into Saturday's matchup, Tulsa has switched between two quarterbacks: Cardell Williams and Roman Fuller. The former will likely be the starter against FAU, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns to have Tulsa run away with the win over Temple. As a redshirt freshman, Williams completed 52 of his 82 passes for 596 yards and eight touchdowns but has thrown five interceptions in five games this season.
One player FAU will have to watch out for is graduate safety Kendarin Ray. He has dominated the tackling category for Tulsa with 46 tackles (22 solo) while making an interception and deflecting one pass. His total tackles ranks him in the top 10 (9th) of the country as he's 30th in tackles made per game with 9.2.
With the conclusion of this contest, Tulsa will have their bye week before getting back into gears with a home matchup against Rice on October 19th at 6:00 PM.
Star Watch: WR Marquis Shoulders When Tulsa decides to utilize the passing game, Shoulders would be their main target. The receiver had a strong showing in the team's conference opener against Temple last Thursday, finishing with 76 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five catches. He leads the team in receiving yards with 283 and touchdowns with five, with the latter tying him for sixth in the nation.
Final Word Unlike FAU, Tulsa shows a high tendency in using the run game, having better success rates in converting on third down and scoring in the red zone than FAU has so far this season. The Golden Hurricane will have their work cut out for them in regards to protecting their quarterback, allowing 12 sacks which places them among the top 30 in most sacks allowed.
Keeping their star receiver Marquis Shoulders occupied with constant coverage while reducing the options they have in running the ball would help FAU figure out Tulsa early on when Saturday comes around.