Analysis: The Owls take on Western Kentucky in a pivotal C-USA East division matchup

The Owls look to become bowl eligible with a win on the road.


WR Willie Wright scored his first touchdown of the season last Saturday against the Monarchs. Photo courtesy of FAU Athletics.

Jensen Jennings, Contributing Writer

After defeating the Old Dominion Monarchs last week 41-3, the FAU Owls (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) head back on the road to battle with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (5-3, 3-1 C-USA). 

The Owls will be taking on a Hilltoppers team who just suffered their first loss in conference play, losing to Marshall 26-23, after Marshall kicked a game-winning 53-yard field goal as time expired. 

Head coach Lane Kiffin and the Owls will look to get a big C-USA win this weekend and with a victory they’d become bowl eligible for only the fifth time in program history. 

Here is what you need to watch for as the Owls take on the Hilltoppers:

Will Chris Robison be leading the offense against the Hilltoppers?

Robison left the game late in the first half of last weeks win over ODU, when he was driven hard to the turf during a scramble. Before his injury, Robison was well on his way to having a great day throwing the ball. Robison completed 17 of 24 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. 

“I’m preparing for the week as if I’m going to start,” said quarterback Chris Robison Tuesday.

Having a healthy Robison will be important for this Owls team to be successful. Backup quarterback Nick Tronti completed seven of 10 passes for 57 yards, one touchdown and one interception when he came in for the injured Robison. 

“He’s looked alright, hopefully he can play,” said head coach Lane Kiffin on Wednesday. 

Kiffin has been vague all week on the status of Robison. It won’t be until the first snap of the game that we can know for sure if Robison will be back under center for the Owls.

The offense will need to move the ball consistently 

The Hilltoppers have one of the best defenses in C-USA. They’re holding their opponents to 18.8 points per game. Their defense is stout against the run and the pass, allowing 117.9 rushing yards per game and 183.63 passing yards per game. 

The running back position has been hit hard by the injury bug for the Owls. If lead backs Malcolm Davidson and Larry McCammon III can’t play, look for James Charles and Chauncey Mason to step in. 

If Robison is healthy, the passing game should be good enough to take some of the pressure off the run game if Davidson and McCammon are unable to play. 

Robison will have his normal group of receivers to throw to and hopefully the return of a productive Willie Wright. Wright scored his first touchdown of the season last week against ODU and appeared to look more like the player we saw before he suffered a concussion last season against FIU.

Defense needs to continue their steady play 

The Owls defense has forced a lot of turnovers under first-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. On the season, FAU have 10 interceptions to go along with eight forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries 

Western Kentucky quarterback Ty Storey is completing 70.32% of his passes and has five touchdown passes and two interceptions. The Owls will need to get pressure on Storey early to make him uncomfortable and force him into making mistakes. 

The Hilltoppers rushing attack is led by running back Gaej Walker, who is averaging 91.25 yards per game on the season. 

The Owls will need their star linebackers, Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy, to continue their stellar play. The pair of linebackers lead the team in tackles with 56 and 55 respectively and have combined for seven sacks on the season. 

Keeping the Hilltoppers offense from sustaining any long drives, will force the Hilltoppers defense to be on the field for long periods of time and wear down the strength of their team.

The Weather 

The temperature at kickoff is supposed to be around 50 degrees with temperatures dropping into the 40s throughout the game in Bowling Green, KY. For comparison sake, it’ll be 85 degrees in Boca Raton. 

It will be important for the Owls to not let the weather affect their play. Thankfully the forecast doesn’t call for any wet weather conditions which would make things difficult for the Owls up tempo offense. 

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on Nov. 2nd at Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, KY and will be broadcast on the streaming service ESPN+. 

Jensen Jennings is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jensen_Jennings.