Matchup: FAU (3-3, 2-0 AAC) vs UTSA (3-3, 2-0 AAC)
When: Saturday, October 21st, 6:00 PM
Where: Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium
Live Reactions: YouTube
Radio: FoxSports 640
Opening Line: FAU +2
Weather Forecast: Current conditions in Boca Raton, FL
The Series: This will be the Owls' fourth matchup in program history against UTSA, going 3-0 in their three previous encounters. FAU is 5-6 all-time against AAC opponents.
UTSA Team Site: Here
FAU couldn't have asked for a better offensive performance than what they had this past Saturday against USF, scoring a program-record 56 points.
Head coach Tom Herman continues to show his astounding pedigree against AAC opponents. With the win over the Bulls, he improved to 14-4 all-time in AAC regular-season games (2-0 at Florida Atlantic and 12-4 at Houston).
They now look forward to UTSA, who the Owls can safely say they are undefeated against. After a nail-biting 41-37 victory in 2014, double-digit wins in 2019 (40-26) and 2020 (24-3) did not leave much room to question FAU's strengths against the Roadrunners.
Lajohntay Wester, who came into Tampa averaging an NCAA-leading 10.4 receptions and 20.5 yards on punt returns, had 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown and scored a 67-yard touchdown on his only punt return. It was the eighth game the receiver recorded 100 or more receiving yards and the fourth time in the last five contests, as he even moved up to third on FAU's all-time receiving yards list.
Wide receiver Tony Johnson (pictured via Bob Markey II) was dominant against the Bulls' secondary. He finished with a new career high in receiving yards with 131 as he made eight catches with perfect success throughout the course of the game. In six games, Johnson has tied his reception (23) and touchdown (3) totals from last year, while eclipsing his receiving yards with 274 and counting.
Not only was Daniel Richardson's performance against USF his best in an FAU jersey to date, the 382 yards he threw on a completion percentage of 82% were also career-highs for the quarterback. It also helped that the offensive line provided excellent protection for Richardson, conceding no sacks against the Bulls. The o-line has only allowed nine of them so far this year, placing themselves in the top 50 of the country (tied-33rd) in least sacks allowed per game.
The Owls' defense even followed through on their ability to get to the opposing quarterback, recording a season-high six sacks against the Bulls' offense. Among the players who entered their names in that category were linebackers Jaylen Wester and Desmond Tisdol, defensive linemen Decarius Hawthorne and Jude Okolo, defensive end Marlon Krakue, and outside linebacker Morven Joseph. This is an area FAU would have to keep up if they were to make the UTSA offense sluggish throughout Saturday.
After this matchup, FAU will go back on the road as they will take on Charlotte on October 27th at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Star Watch: RB Larry McCammon III McCammon III allowed Richardson and the receivers to have the spotlight against USF, quietly having 75 rushing yards and a touchdown in the process. Taking into account that UTSA might try to take away the easy passes early on, this would be McCammon's chance to assert himself as the primary option the Owls can lean on throughout significant portions of the game. The Roadrunners have allowed eight total touchdowns and an average of 172.3 yards to the run game, showcasing an opportunity for McCammon III to shine Saturday night.
Final Word With the Owls making strides in scoring in the red zone, keeping that up against a UTSA defense that is capable of causing issues in that area will be interesting to keep an eye on. As long as FAU is able to utilize both the run and the pass to the fullest, it is possible that their firepower offense from this past Saturday may continue to persist. And of course, a win against a recent conference champion would provide a major boost to the team's confidence moving forward.
Key Stats Comparison
A year removed from winning the Conference USA championship as they posted a 11-3 record, UTSA has had a shaky first half to their season.
The Roadrunners came out of non-conference play with a 1-3 record, sustaining defeats to Houston, Army, and 20th-ranked Tennessee. Their lone win was against Texas State with a close score of 20-13. They have since bounced back in AAC play, earning back-to-back victories over Temple and UAB.
Under third-year head coach Jeff Traylor, UTSA has won 11 consecutive regular-season conference games and improved to 22-3 in regular-season conference games dating back to 2020.
Forcing turnovers was something UTSA struggled to do earlier in the season. They only had three takeaways entering Saturday's game against UAB, as they wound up getting three takeaways in the win over the Blazers. In particular, cornerback Kam Alexander and safety Elliott Davison each came up with interceptions to go with outside linebacker Trey Moore’s fumble recovery. Davison returned his pick for 76 yards, the third-longest interception return in school history.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Joshua Cephus moved to the top of the program’s career receptions chart with 269 after catching seven passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns to help spark a balanced offensive output. In six games, Cephus has 441 yards and six touchdowns (tied-14th nationally) on 45 receptions. Limiting the number of targets he has on Saturday could assist the Owls in forcing UTSA to look for other options that are not as advantageous.
Kevorian Barnes and Robert Henry are the running backs who headline UTSA's run game. Barnes tops the unit in rushing yards with 413 and touchdowns with four on 94 carries, while Henry is the runner-up with 306 yards and four touchdowns on 43 rushes. Keeping the duo in check would benefit FAU in slowing down the Roadrunners' offense.
The highlights of the Roadrunners' defense revolve around three players: Moore, inside linebacker Martavius French, and outside linebacker Jimmori Robinson. Moore is the team's undisputed leader in sacks with 7.5 (third nationally) and tackles for loss with 10 (seventh in the country), French tops the defense in tackles with 33 (17 solo), and Robinson has the most quarterback hurries with four while making six tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage.
With the conclusion of this contest, UTSA will have a home matchup against East Carolina on October 28th at a time to be determined.
Star Watch: QB Frank Harris UTSA has averaged 45.0 points in two games since the return of Harris to the lineup, who was dealing with a turf toe injury he sustained against Texas State which caused him to miss the Army and Tennessee matchups. The quarterback has a touchdown-interception ratio of 7:3, throwing for 932 yards on 88 completions after four contests. He is coming off a spectacular 2022 campaign where he threw for 4,063 yards and 32 touchdowns en route to winning Conference USA's Most Valuable Player of the Year, being a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, and getting listed as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award.
Final Word UTSA has nearly shown a split in distributing between their running and passing plays, albeit getting less yardage than FAU's. With Frank Harris picking up where he left off, the Roadrunners can expect to throw the ball in the air frequently to create opportunities for the likes of Joshua Cephus to make plays. This matchup is not one for the Owls to take lightly, especially with the championship experience the Roadrunners still have on their roster with Harris and head coach Jeff Traylor leading the charge.