FAU is going to be fighting for its postseason life next week.
With a loss to WKU the Owls now have to win against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders next week in order to become bowl eligible. If not, their season is officially over on Nov. 27.
After Florida Atlantic (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) went three-and-out, Bailey Zappe and the high-powered Hilltopper offense drove down the field for an 87-yard drive. Zappe had 92 passing yards, with WKU taking a false start penalty on the first play of the drive, while Jerreth Sterns had 54 of those receiving yards, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown off of a screen pass.
On the issuing drive, Brandon Robinson appeared to have reached the ball past the goal line, but his foot was out of bounds before he could do so. The ball was spotted on the three yard line and FAU's offense could not capitalize on the first and goal situation, being pushed back 14 yards, forcing a field goal. Aaron Shahriari made the field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
Western Kentucky (7-4, 6-1 C-USA,) answered back with yet another touchdown drive, with Zappe finishing a three-play, 50-yard drive with an eight-yard strike to Mitchell Tinsley to make it 14-3. The Hilltoppers struck again after another failed Owls drive to make it a 21-3 game.
With Western Kentucky at FAU's 42 yard line, Teja Young swiped the ball away and returned it for a 62-yard pick-six to make it a 21-10 game with 7:58 to go in the first half, giving FAU some life. That life was shortlived, as WKU put up 10 unanswered points to give them a 31-10 halftime lead.
FAU would strike with the first score of the second half, a 9-yard touchdown pass to John Mitchell, but 21 unanswered WKU points would put this game way out of reach for the Owls.
JeQuan Burton had one of his best games for the Owls, bringing in seven catches for 80 yards on 10 targets, notching an average of 11.4 yards per catch.
Defensively, Jordan Helm had yet another monster game, racking up 12 tackles, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery.
Florida Atlantic will be back in action on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. for their final regular-season matchup against the MTSU Blue Raiders. The game will be broadcast on Stadium and The CW.
Here are our takeaways from the loss:
- Some Homecoming - In Coach Taggartís return to his alma mater, his Owls score the second-fewest points scored against and the most points given up to WKU all year. Thatís worse than Rice, Old Dominion, and even FIU. Thatís a joke for a program that had hopes of topping the Hilltoppers for the East division crown just weeks ago.
- Losing Streaks - Second year of the Taggart era and a second straight year with a three-game losing streak. This is the first time FAU has had back-to-back seasons with a three or more game losing streak since 2015 and 2016. Lane Kiffin and Carl Pelini on the only coaches in program history to have not had such a record.
- Rushing Pains - This Owls offense is at its best when they are able to run the ball. That would be a tough test compared to WKUís high octane passing attack. Yet, FAU had more rushes (26) than rushing yards (25). This is mostly due to the lack of time quarterbacks NíKosi Perry and Nick Tronti had when attempting to throw it downfield.
- Teaching Moment - Speaking of throwing it downfield, WKU would make gorgeous catch after catch after catch no matter the situation. FAUís receivers should spend the offseason watching their film to see how to haul in a difficult pass. The WKU receivers absolutely outclassed ours.
- All Brakes, No Gas - FAU couldn't get anything going on the ground, gaining just 10 total yards on the ground. Prior to a 16-yard Johnny Ford rush, FAU had -6 rushing yards this afternoon. The Owls finished with just 25 yards on 26 carries via the run.
- Zapped Down To Earth - The first half was all Bailey Zappe, as he went 25-31 with 340 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. The second half was more of the same, seeing Zappe add another 130 yards and two more touchdowns before being relieved by Drew Zaubi.
- This Team Misses Moss, Mungin - On Thursday, head coach Willie Taggart ruled out Diashun Moss for the year. Later, Romain "Smoke" Mungin was ruled unavailable after dealing with a concussion. WKU's offense was able to pick apart the depleted secondary and they'll have yet another test next week with a high-powered passing offense from Murfreesboro, TN.