Football Preview: against Charlotte

Owls travel to Charlotte to play 49ers in first time conference matchup.


Brandon Harrington

Sophomore wide receiver Henry Bussey stiff-arms a Buffalo defender during last Saturday’s 33-15 loss. Brandon Harrington|Photo Editor

Ryan Lynch, Sports Editor

After three straight losses to start the season, Florida Atlantic (0-3) sits in a precarious position heading into conference play.

Coming into their first ever match-up against the Charlotte 49ers, FAU is looking for a win this week to break an eight game losing streak going back to last season, as well as an eight-game road losing streak.

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s match-up.

FAU’s keys to the game:

After a 33-15 loss to Buffalo, the Owls still need to fix a few problems that have plagued them over the past few weeks.

  • FAU has turned over the ball 10 times over the past two games, which has hurt their ability to create an offense. During last week the Owls had five turnovers, which led to 14 of the Bulls’ points.
  • Penalties have also “stifled” drives for the team thus far. After earning 13 in week one against Tulsa and eight against Miami, the Owls decreased their total to five.

On offense, redshirt freshman Jason Driskel led the team with 359 yards passing and two touchdowns in his first career start. If redshirt senior Jaquez Johnson is unable to go, Driskel would get the start again.

Sophomore Greg Howell and junior Jay Warren were held to a combined 52 yards rushing and fumbled three times last week. Both Howell and Warren need to take responsibility for the ball, as each had a fumble that led to a touchdown during the Buffalo game.

The young FAU defense has gradually improved over the past three games, culminating in limiting Buffalo to 290 yards of total offense in their best performance so far this year. Freshman safety Jalen Young caught his first interception of his career last week, the only turnover the Owls forced in the game.

Besides Johnson, offensive lineman Roman Fernandez is out and redshirt junior offensive lineman Kelly Parfitt is questionable for the game. Warren is probable. Besides injuries, a stomach flu bug has affected many of the players and coaches since last week.

“It is working its way through the team,” he said on Monday. “All indicators are that it is a 24 hour to 36 hour deal. We had some kids dealing with it during the game.”

Charlotte’s keys to the game:

Playing their first home conference game in a Football Bowl Subdivision level (formerly known as Division I-AA), the 49ers will look to earn their first-ever Conference USA win.

The team has used two quarterbacks to start the season,  with Matt Johnson getting the start in week one and Brooks Baden being used in week two. Johnson leads the duo with 491 yards and three touchdowns, while Baden has 11 yards and one touchdown. Third stringer Lee McNeill has also been seen to be getting first team looks and could start, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The 49ers’ running backs are Kalif Phillips and Andrew Buie. Phillips is the only person to register a rushing touchdown for his team, with two so far.

Playing Middle Tennessee last week, turnovers killed the team’s momentum in the 73-14 loss. Charlotte had seven turnovers, leading to 31 of MTSU’s 73 points.

On defense, the 49ers gave up 695 total offensive yards against the Blue Raiders, while only earning 219. They also forced two fumbles during the game.

Their one silver lining in the loss was special teams, as Charlotte ran for over 200 yards and a touchdown on kick returns against Middle Tennessee.

So who wins?

A win here would get FAU started in conference play on the right foot, while for Charlotte it would be a huge victory in their conference schedule.

The passing performance by Jason Driskel could be a factor against the 49ers, who have surrendered an average of 229 pass yards per game.

The game being in North Carolina does not help the Owls: They are on a 0-8 road losing streak stemming back to last year.

FAU was placed as -7.5 point underdog by Vegas oddsmakers.

To win, The Owls need to score plenty of points early. Whether they find success hinges on their second-half performance, which is often where things have gone wrong for the team.

FAU needs a victory more than anything else. If they look like the same team they were in the past three games, it will be a long season in Boca Raton.
Ryan Lynch is the sports editor of the University Press. For tips regarding this or other articles, he can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter.