Football Preview: Owls look to keep momentum versus Western Kentucky

Coming off a win against rival Florida International, football takes trip to face conference-leading Hilltoppers.

Head+coach+Charlie+Partridge+will+have+his+hands+full+when+his+team+travels+Saturday+to+face+Western+Kentucky%2C+who+possess+one+of+the+top+offenses+in+the+nation.+Josh+Talero+%7C+Contributing+Photographer

Head coach Charlie Partridge will have his hands full when his team travels Saturday to face Western Kentucky, who possess one of the top offenses in the nation. Josh Talero | Contributing Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

Following their 31-17 win versus Florida International University at home last weekend, Florida Atlantic University will travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky this Saturday to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

The Owls have won five of the six previous games between the two teams, including a 45-38 comeback win last season, when quarterback Jaquez Johnson threw for 325 yards and three pass touchdowns.

With their win last weekend, FAU has moved up to fourth place in Conference USA, despite a 2-6 overall record (2-3 C-USA). WKU is tied for first in the conference with Marshall with a 7-2 overall record and an undefeated mark of 5-0 in the conference.

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

Keys to the game

Western Kentucky has won seven of their nine games so far this year with their only losses coming against Indiana University and Louisiana State University. The Hilltoppers are averaging 42.6 points per game, and quarterback Brandon Doughty has played a huge part in that. Doughty is third in the FBS with 3310 passing yards, and has already thrown for 30 touchdowns against only five interceptions.

The Hilltoppers are also averaging 137.9 rushing yards per game, with several players receiving carries. Junior running back Anthony Wales, who was recently tabbed C-USA player of the week, has 554 total rushing yards and six touchdowns for the season on 71 carries.

Running back D’Andre Ferby has rushed for 409 yards, while also having six touchdowns this season on 98 carries.

FAU played quite possibly one of its best games of the season last Saturday, with the team rushing for 229 yards. Several players contributed, with freshman running back Trey Rodriguez leading the way with 94 yards on 20 carries and two rushing touchdowns.

“He has a gear that when he bounces it, he has a chance to turn a six-yard play into a 20-yard play,” head coach Charlie Partridge said of Rodriguez.

Quarterbacks Johnson and Jason Driskel — who both took snaps during the game — combined for 168 yards through the air. More importantly, neither turned the ball over, which has been a problem for both players this season.

The Owls’ defense had a standout performance, holding FIU to 262 total yards and forcing two turnovers. “It felt like the strongest team win. By that I thought all phases complemented each other,” Partridge said.

So who will win?

The Owls will need both sides of the ball to play well during the whole game. FAU has been known to let their guards down this year, having a lead on their opponents in four of their six losses.

FAU’s defense will play a major role in this game, especially with how they will handle Western Kentucky’s offense.

The Owls’ defensive line and its linebackers will play an important part in stopping the run game, as well as getting pressure on Doughty and forcing him to get rid of the ball faster than he would like.

“Without a doubt I need the D line to show up again this week. One of the challenges is that he (Doughty) gets that ball out really, really fast,” said Partridge.

On offense, FAU will try to avoid turning the ball over and control the clock so that Western Kentucky’s offense has the ball as little as possible.

Rodriguez and the running backs will be vital for the Owl`s offense, looking to ease the pressure on the passing game and keep the Hilltoppers’ defense on their toes throughout the game.

The Hilltoppers will rely heavily on their defense to give their offense the ball back quickly and will look to try to put the game away early.

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