Football Preview: Owls look for first-ever win versus Marshall

The Owls host the Thundering Herd this Saturday with the potential for their first home win of the year.


Max Jackson

FAU running back Marcus Clark (20) steps out of bounds before being tackled by Rice defensive end Brady White (40). Clark had three carries for a total of 48 yards on the day. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Josh Talero, Contributing Writer

Football will host Marshall this Saturday, with Thundering Herd come to Boca Raton riding a four- game win streak while in second place in Conference USA East .

A 27-26 loss against Rice in their last game (see recap here) has Florida Atlantic (1-4, 1-1 C-USA) looking to stop the problems that have plagued their team up to this point of the season.

Here’s what you need to know going into this weekend’s matchup:

Keys to the game:

Marshall (5-1, 2-0 C-USA) no longer has quarterback Rakeem Cato, who set multiple passing records suring his time with the Herd and lead them to a 12-1 record last year. But, the graduation of their well accomplished quarterback has not stopped the Marshall offense from producing.  

Running back Devon Johnson is back for his final year and is poised to produce coming into the matchup. Last year, Johnson had a record-setting game versus the Owls, rushing for 272 yards and four touchdowns.

Johnson has begun the season on a slower pace than he did last year, with 472 yards and four touchdowns in five games. Despite the numbers, Johnson’s speed should be seen as Marshall’s main threat.

Senior defensive lineman Trevon Coley and true freshman Azeez Al-Shaair, who finished with double-digit tackles for the second consecutive game against Rice, will be essential in holding Marshall’s run attack from making large gains through the middle of the field.

Johnson is listed as “probable” for this week’s game after suffering a back injury earlier in the season. This should not prevent Coley, Al-Shaair and the rest of the defense from looking past him as a legitimate threat.

FAU’s senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson has a solid performance to build on after his game against Rice where he finished with a passer rating of 146.6, completing 15-of-29 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

Backup quarterback Jason Driskel replaced Johnson on one play during the fourth quarter due to Johnson’s lingering ankle injury. According to head coach Charlie Partridge, the injury concerns for Johnson appeared to have been minimal precautions.

“After an hour and roughly 20 minute delay his ankles weren’t ready to go, so we were doing everything we could to get them warmed up and ready,” Partridge said after last Saturday’s game.

FAU will need Johnson to be sharp come Saturday as Marshall’s defense currently has allowed only 17.5 points per game, making them C-USA’s best defense.

Their secondary has jumped on the passes of opposing quarterbacks, forcing nine interceptions this season.

The Owls will need to watch their passes, much like they did in the last game. For just the second time this year, FAU committed no turnovers in their game against Rice.

Seeing as how FAU committed 15 combined turnovers in a three-game stretch, it will be hard to call if the team will hang on to the ball or not.

The return of two key FAU playmakers will be important. Both defensive back Jalen Young and wide receiver Jenson Stoshak left Saturday’s game against Rice early due to injuries.

Young left the game before the end of the first half due to a concussion and is listed as day-to-day as he undergoes concussion protocol throughout the week. A decision on his status for Saturday’s game will come in the coming week.

Stoshak will undergo an MRI after injuring his shoulder, leaving a decision on his status for Saturday to be decided in the near future.

Who will win?

On paper, it’s easy to see why a first-place team on a four-game winning streak (Marshall) would be favored over a 1-4 team that has not been immune to turnovers (FAU).

Last week’s game showed how important having control of momentum can be for your team. In order to beat Marshall, the Owls need to establish the tone and pace of the game.

On offense, FAU will need to take care of the football and limit turnovers. By doing so, they control time of possession and dictate the pace at which the game is played.

Make no mistake, the Owls have shown flashes of the potential to be a dominant force in their conference. In order to take a step forward toward that goal, they need to take care of the little things.

Josh Talero is a contributing writer for the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.