Keys to the game: FAU Football heads to Southern Miss for regular-season finale

The Owls lost 20-3 last week against Georgia Southern.


Wide receiver Jordan Merrell makes a leaping catch against UMass on Nov. 20. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Jensen Jennings, Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic’s football team (5-2, 4-1 C-USA) is headed back on the road to take on conference foe Southern Miss. (2-7, 1-4 C-USA) in the regular-season finale for the Owls. 

The game was originally scheduled for Oct. 10 but had to be postponed due to COVID-19 related issues on the FAU football team.

This will be the second time FAU has traveled to face the Golden Eagles. FAU defeated Southern Miss 41-7 in 2013 the lone time they traveled to Hattiesburg.

Here are some keys to the game if FAU is going to finish the regular season with a win against Southern Miss:

Avoid Turning the Ball Over

Last week against Georgia Southern, the FAU offense shot itself in the foot time and time again with four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) on the night.

The Owls have struggled often this season on offense, averaging just over 18 points per game and averaging 188.3 rushing yards and 141 passing yards per game.

When your offense is struggling to gain yards and put up points, the one thing you cannot do is turn the ball over. 

There are still some question marks as to who will start at quarterback for the Owls, as both Javion Posey and Nick Tronti have struggled at times for FAU. One area where Tronti does have an edge on Posey is in the turnover department.

In his 12 quarters of action as FAU’s starting quarterback, Posey has turned the ball over six times (three fumbles and three interceptions). In his 17 quarters this season, Tronti has thrown one interception and has yet to fumble. 

Make Plays in the Passing Game

I know this was a key last week, but until the FAU offense shows it can consistently move the ball through the air, it needs to continue to be a key for this team.

Last week against Georgia Southern, FAU quarterbacks completed 14-28 passes for 189 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. 

The Owls have multiple wide receivers who can make plays in the passing game, but the FAU quarterbacks need to find a way to consistently get the ball into the hands of their playmakers on the outside.

Senior wide receiver TJ Chase is leading the team in receptions with 21 and receiving yards with 328. He also has one touchdown on the season. 

The only other wide receiver over 100 yards receiving on the season is redshirt junior Jordan Merrell with 13 catches for 184 yards and zero touchdowns. 

Don’t Overlook the Opponent

Southern Miss has struggled all season. They’ve had multiple players opt out before the season began, had its all-conference starting quarterback enter the transfer portal, and are on its fourth different head coach this season.

With all the turmoil the Golden Eagles have faced this season, it’s easy for a team like FAU to overlook its opponent, but Southern Miss still has some good talent on its team.

Running back Frank Gore Jr, a one-time FAU commit, has had a productive freshman season for the Golden Eagles. He’s carried the ball 112 times for 597 yards and one touchdown. He’s also caught eight passes for 91 yards and one touchdown.

With the Marshall game against Charlotte now canceled, FAU’s chances of winning the East division of C-USA went out the window. The Owls still have a shot to play in the C-USA championship game if Marshall is unable to play in the game on Dec. 18.

The Owls and the Golden Eagles will face off Thursday, Dec. 10 at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on CBSSN. 

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