Football Preview: Owls host Middle Tennessee in final home game of season

A week after their 35-19 loss to Western Kentucky, the Owls gear up to face the Blue Raiders.


FAU wide receivers Jenson Stoshak (88) and Kalib Woods (81) celebrate after Stoshak scores the first touchdown of the game on a 19-yard pass from Jaquez Johnson (32). Stoshak had four receptions for a total of 101 yards on the day. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot jr., Contributing Writer

Coming off a 35-19 loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers last weekend, football (2-7, 2-4 C-USA) will be looking to bounce back at home this Saturday when they face the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-5, 3-2 C-USA).

The Blue Raiders have held the advantage in the matchup between the two teams since they first played in 2003, winning nine out of their 12 total meetings including the last seven.

The Owls fell short in last season’s game — 35-34 — in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, when former starting quarterback Austin Grammer threw the game-winning touchdown to wide receiver Marcus Henry with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

FAU has dropped to sixth place in the conference after last Saturday’s lost, while MTSU has moved up to fifth after they upset Marshall 27-24 at home.

Here’s what you need to know for Saturday’s game:

Middle Tennessee is averaging 33.8 points per game this season, good for fifth in the conference, while the Owls are giving up an average of 34.4 points per game. MTSU freshman quarterback Brent Stockstill has played a huge part in leading the offense with 2798 total yards and 21 pass touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Stockstill had a huge game in the three-overtime win versus Marshall last weekend, throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns.

The Blue Raiders are, however, ranked 11th out of 13th in the conference in rushing yards, averaging only 137.4 yards on the ground. Freshman running back Desmond Anderson is the team’s leading rusher this season with 364 yards on 81 carries.

Middle Tennessee’s defense has been their weakness this season, giving up an average of 30 points, 141.7 yards of rushing and 274.7 yards of passing per game  .

FAU’s defense held Western Kentucky to 14 points at halftime, but were unable to keep up the pressure. Hilltoppers quarterback Brandon Doughty went 24-for-29 on passes, with 273 yards and four passing touchdowns.

The Owls also gave up 229 rushing yards to the Hilltoppers, with junior running back Anthony Wales leading the way with 135 yards on 17 carries. Stopping the run has been a problem for the Owls this season — they’ve given up 186.3 yards of rushing so far.

So who will win?

The Blue Raiders will look to score early and often, as they are averaging 19 points in the first half of games. They shouldn’t rely on their defense to win them this game and will be ready for an offensive showdown with FAU.

Behind players such as defensive back Cre’von LeBlanc and Ocie Rose, the Owls’ secondary will be looking to give the defensive line enough times to get to Stockstill and force him into mistakes they can capitalize on.

Freshman running back Trey Rodriguez will look to continue his stellar season, averaging 77.4 yards per game, including rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries last game.

Despite last week’s lost, head coach Charlie Partridge has all the confidence in the world in his team and feels a turnaround is right around the corner. “We are so close in so many ways. Our kids know it. I applaud them and they deserve to be applauded because they are all in here this morning and it is pretty awesome to see,” he said.

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories, email him at [email protected].