After a much-needed bye week, the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) are set to face off against the Charlotte 49ers (4-2, 1-1 C-USA) in a pivotal Conference USA matchup. These two teams have been rumored to be taking their conference rivalry to the American Athletic Conference, but FAU Head Coach Willie Taggart isn't focused on conference affiliations.
"I don't know what distraction you're talking about," FAU Head Coach Willie Taggart said when asked if any distractions have leaked to the team since the news broke. "Our guys have been locked into Charlotte since we got off the plane from UAB. There haven't been any distractions that I know of."
They're going to need to play a distraction-free football game going against one of the conference's best teams this season - a Charlotte team that sits atop the C-USA east division and for good reason. Their offensive line has only given up 10 sacks all season, which is the fourth-fewest among C-USA squads, and fifth-year starting quarterback Chris Reynolds has only thrown three interceptions, the fewest among C-USA starters.
"He's been there too long for me and it's only been a year and a half," Taggart said. "He has such command on the offense, a great understanding of the offense, so he rarely gets in a bad position because he has an understanding and knows where all the outlets are within the offense."
FAU will look to take first place in the division from Reynolds and the 49ers, as they face off in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Bye Week Mashup
- Good News: Perry's In During Tuesday's press conference, Coach Taggart said that quarterback N'Kosi Perry will be good to start for the Owls. This is good news for FAU because of the 14 stats FAU has a player in the top-50 of, N'Kosi Perry has nine of those spots at the halfway point. Most notably, he's tied for 38th in touchdowns (11) and 45th in receiving yards (1471.) Backup Nick Tronti made second-half appearances in four of FAU's six games, so his name being up there with college football's best is a testament to how good he is.
- Locking Up The Pass Game With Charlotte having two receivers of over 400 yards, Grant DuBose (466) and Victor Tucker (432,) Coach Taggart stressed the importance of the secondary locking up their individual assignments. "They've gotta do a great job of covering those receivers and knowing where those receivers are every time they're on the field," he said. "They also have to understand what route combination you get from those guys when they are at a certain spot on the field. I think it's so important to know where they are and to do your job within the defense."
- Back To The Winning Formula After putting up just 46 yards of rushing on 38 carries (1.2 YPC), FAU is ready to re-establish their identity in the running games. "Our whole offense starts with out run game," offensive coordinator Michael Johnson said. "If we don't run the ball effectively, it puts us behind the eight-ball so to speak. So if we can run the ball, it opens up other areas we're able to go to and we weren't able to do that against UAB and it hurt us." In wins, the Owls averaged 246 rushing yards while only averaging 93 rushing yards in their losses.
- C-USA Championship Berth In Mind The Owls currently sit in third place in the C-USA East division - a win against Charlotte could jump them to first. This week's matchup is crucial in FAU regaining footing in the conference title race. "We always talk about going 1-0 every week, so right now our focus is getting our first road win [of the season,]" wide receiver Brandon Robinson [photo] said. "It's still conference play, all of the games we have left are straight conference, for us to win out and control our own destiny, that's important."
- Awareness of Personnel is Key Charlotte runs a very fluid RPO offense with a lot of shifting personnel. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops says it's important to be aware of who is on the field, as the personnel group on the field could key in on which read they're favoring - the run or the pass. "In this era of football we're in, you know you're always going to see a lot of shifts, trades, motions with a lot of their personnel," Stoops said. "A lot of their two tight end stuff they give you multiple different formations and adjustments and it's just something you you all have to be on the same page defensively."
- What They Are Saying Charlotte Head Coach Will Healy has a lot of respect for the Owls, and his 49ers are going into this one looking to prepare for a tough conference battle. "We're playing a really good football team," Healy said. "They're a team that's always a perennial favorite to win the conference and they have unbelievable athletes, their personnel is really good, and they're good at all three phases. It's going to be a really tough football game."
Head Coach Willie Taggart, Offensive Coordinator Michael Johnson, wide receiver Brandon Robinson, Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops, and linebacker Akileis Leroy headline this week's VideoPlay.