Starting off the conference schedule with a huge 58-21 win in the Shula Bowl over rival FIU, the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) face one of their toughest tests yet against C-USA West foe UAB (3-2. 1-0 C-USA.) The last time the two teams faced, the Owls defeated the Blazers 49-6 in the 2019 C-USA Championship Game.
"We knew coming off of the Air Force game, we know we didn't play or execute anywhere close to what is needed to finish out our schedule and we wanted to bounce back and have a great week of practice," offensive coordinator Michael Johnson said of overcoming a tough 31-7 loss to Air Force heading into conference play. "I think what we did in the game was a direct reflection of how we practiced last week."
Now, FAU is preparing for a tough week against a Blazers team that went 3-1 in conference play last year, defeating Marshall in the C-USA Championship game. Albeit, they will be without starting quarterback Tyler Johnston III, who played a crucial role in their conference title run, as he is out indefinitely with an injury. Redshirt junior Dylan Hopkins, who takes his place, is throwing 41-65 with 653 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions heading into this game.
"When you look at the game against Liberty, [Hopkins] threw a ball that a receiver dropped that was going to be a 70-yard touchdown," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "His ability to throw the ball is equal to the people we've seen thus far and he can stretch the field vertically in a lot of different ways. They want to throw when they want to throw, when you force them into throwing in situations they're not comfortable in, that's a huge advantage to a defense, so we have to be able to put them in long-yardage situations where they're not comfortable."
Florida Atlantic is still searching for their first road win of the year after losing in disappointing fashion to Florida and Air Force. Now, they face their third straight tough road test against the Blazers. Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2021, and the game will be broadcast on Stadium.
- Shades of Triple Option By the looks of it, FAU picked up something from their trip to the US Air Force Academy two weeks ago: the triple option. During practice on Tuesday, the Owls were running their own rendition of the triple option, featuring a dive, a jet sweep, and a QB run. Whether or not we see it being used in games is yet to be determined, but it seems like the offensive playbook is being opened up more and more as Florida Atlantic heads into conference play.
- Praise From The Enemy On Monday, UAB head coach Bill Clark had really high praise for the Owls saying, "Defensively, they are the same as far as just really aggressive, well-coached defense and then offensively, they've probably found who they are last week. They went really high tempo; they have speed everywhere/ They're in a hotbed of recruiting, they've got speed all over the place and are gigantic up front. We knew when we added those guys to our side of the schedule, they were giving us one of the best teams on the other side of the conference and they looked like it on Saturday." FAU and UAB traded conference championships over the past four seasons, with FAU winning in 2017 and 2019 and UAB winning in 2018 and 2020, and they've both been touted as contenders for the C-USA crown again this year.
- Blazers Shorthanded On Defense The Blazers went into last week's game against Liberty with five defensive starters missing, and although they're confirmed to be getting linebackers Kristopher Moll and Tyler Taylor back, they will still be shorthanded on that side of the ball this week. Tyler Taylor will be making his season debut this year. Last year, he had 27 tackles, four pass deflections, and three tackles for a loss.
- Joyner At Full Strength On Monday, FAU head coach Willie Taggart said that defensive end Jaylen Joyner [photo] was banged up from the prior week's loss to Air Force, yet played in the game against FIU. During that game, he had two tackles and a crucial sack. "I do what I can do to help this team win," Joyner said on his decision to play through the injury last week. "I know in order to help the team win, my job is to get to the quarterback and to stop the run, so I know if I do that, FAU is going to have a good day." After his performance against FIU, Stoops said that Joyner was a full participant in practice all week, while he was limited until Wednesday or Thursday of last week.
- Back In The Lineup Last week, linebacker Chris Jones and defensive lineman Decarious Hawthorne were both out with injuries. Now, they are full participants in practice as the Owls prepare for their matchup against the Blazers and are confirmed to be able to play. "They just give us more depth up front," Stoops said. "They give us a better rotation across the front four. Chris [Jones] has played a lot of football for us and he was a starter heading into the season, so getting back both of those guys definitely helps the front."
Running back Johnny Ford, wide receiver Je'Quan Burton, offensive coordinator Michael Johnson, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, and defensive end Jaylen Joyner headline today's Video Play.
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