FAU Football: Owls frustrated in 52-17 defeat at Western Kentucky

The loss extends FAU’s losing streak to three.


Photo courtesy of FAU Athletics.

Cameron Priester, Contributing Writer

The Florida Atlantic Owls (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) lost 52-17 to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-4, 5-1 C-USA) in a blowout that marked the Owls’ third straight loss, making them 1-5 on the road this season. The loss was a disappointing return to his Alma Mater for head coach Willie Taggart, where he was a record-setting quarterback and began his head coaching career in 2010. 

“We got to be better as coaches,“ said Taggart postgame. “We got to make sure we got the guys in there that can help us get the job done, whether that’s freshman or not.”

FAU’s tough day started early on when the offense was forced to punt despite good tempo, something Taggart emphasized all week, and a third down conversion. 

Even with a false start penalty forcing a first down of 15 yards, the Western Kentucky offense mounted a 87-yard touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from the Hilltoppers’ standout quarterback Bailey Zappe. 

The Owls’ offense started the following drive at midfield due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the previous touchdown and an illegal procedure penalty on the kickoff, both committed by Western Kentucky. However, they only scored three points out of the great field position and a pass interference call on WKU after a fumbled snap by graduate quarterback N’Kosi Perry on third and goal forced FAU to kick a field goal, making the score 7-3.

Western Kentucky quickly responded with a quick three-play touchdown drive, pushing its early lead to 14-3 with 4:13 to go in the 1st quarter.

Despite a first down completion, the FAU offense still couldn’t find any momentum and were forced to punt it back to the Hilltoppers, which they capitalized on for a touchdown pushing their lead to 21-3.

The Owls’ offense continued to struggle, starting the next drive with a first down of 15 yards after a false start penalty. What seemed to be the start of a promising drive was quickly stalled by an offensive pass interference penalty. This set up a fourth down conversion attempt that was an incomplete pass from FAU turning over the ball on downs. 

On the following drive by the WKU offense, FAU finally got their first touchdown of the afternoon with an interception returned for a 62-yard touchdown by sophomore safety Teja Young, making the score 21-10.

After the touchdown, FAU’s woes on defense returned allowing a long, 80-yard touchdown drive that extended the Hilltoppers’ lead to 28-10. 

WKU caught the Owls off guard following the touchdown with an onside kick they recovered, setting them up in Owl territory.

FAU’s defense forced a field goal leaving Western Kentucky with a very comfortable 31-10 lead going into halftime.

“I challenged our guys at halftime to go out and compete, don’t even look at the score,” said Taggart about the conversation in the locker room at halftime. “I want to see who’s gonna compete; We’re gonna go with those guys moving forward.”

Both offenses would trade interceptions to begin the second half, setting up the Owl’s first touchdown drive. N’Kosi Perry led the FAU offense on a nine-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to graduate tight end, John Mitchell, making the score 31-17. 

The Owls’ defense forced another turnover with a fumble from linebacker Eddie Williams recovered by safety Jordan Helm. However, the offense gave the ball back 3 plays later after Perry threw his second interception of the day. 

At this point, Western Kentucky’s explosive, air-raid offense completely took over the game putting up two consecutive touchdown drives with no answer from FAU pushing their lead to 45-17.

The ensuing drive by FAU would mark the end of the day for Perry, after being benched for junior quarterback Nick Tronti. Unfortunately, the change under center didn’t change much as FAU was forced to punt for the fifth time of the day. 

“We’re gonna evaluate the entire second half; I told them I was gonna evaluate it and make sure this last game we’re playing with the right guys,” Taggart said when asked about the quarterback situation heading into next week. 

Despite having their second team quarterback in, Western Kentucky found a way to produce yet another touchdown drive going 83 yards in 10 plays to have the final score of 52-17.

The Owls will return to Boca Raton to prepare for their final game of the season. FAU is set to take on Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Howard Schnellenberger Field, which will decide FAU’s bowl eligibility. The game will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on Stadium.

​​Cameron Priester is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @PriesterCameron.