Previewing the 2022 season for FAU Football

The Owls will look to improve on what turned out to be a disappointing 2021 season.


Head coach Willie Taggart (pictured middle) takes his team to the field to prepare for their game against Florida International University on Oct. 2, 2021. Photo by Eston Parker III.

Cameron Priester, Sports Editor

Many hoped and expected that 2021 would be an improved second season for FAU under head coach Willie Taggart. However, last season ultimately turned out to be a very disappointing year for the Owls. 

After looking competent in the season opener at the University of Florida, a game that many expected the Owls to lose by more than 35, FAU proceeded to go 5-2 in the following seven weeks, falling to Air Force and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on the road. 

Despite the two losses, the Owls were still in contention for the C-USA East with a record of 5-3 when they were preparing for their matchup against Marshall last November. However, FAU fell to the Thundering Herd 28-13 and went on to lose all three of their remaining games, eliminating them from Bowl eligibility and leaving them with a final record of 5-7.

Since last season concluded, the Owls have seen plenty of change to both the roster and the coaching staff.

On the coaching staff, Michael Johnson Sr. was replaced as offensive coordinator with Brent Dearmon, who held the same position at Middle Tennessee last year. Taggart also brought aboard new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando from the University of Southern California to replace Mike Stoops, who departed for the University of Kentucky this January. 

Taggart has also been active on the recruiting trail this off-season, adding several new faces to the team through the transfer portal. Most notably were the additions of former four-star defensive end Morven Joseph, who transferred from Tennessee, and former three-star running back Marvin Scott III, who transferred from Nebraska. 

Those new to the team will be expected to make up for the production lost with the departure of several former Owls, including cornerback Zyon Gilbert and tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden, both of whom signed with teams in the National Football League. 

As the Owls’ season-opener approaches, the UP reviewed the entire 2022 season schedule and evaluated each opponent, to let you know which games to look out for. 

Head coach Willie Taggart (pictured center) gives his team instructions against Georgia Southern University on Sept. 11, 2021. By Eston Parker III.

Aug. 27 vs. Charlotte *

FAU opens the season by hosting a conference matchup at Howard Schnellenberger Field against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers. 

This season’s matchup marks the eighth time the two programs will be facing off. Last season’s 38-9 victory on the road over the 49ers moved the all-time record between the two schools to 5-2, in favor of the Owls. However, of the three meetings against Charlotte that have been played at home, FAU has dropped two of them. 

Fortunately for Dearmon, his first game as FAU’s offensive coordinator will be against a Charlotte defense that struggled greatly last season, finishing the year ranked 120th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in total defense. Meanwhile on defense, Orlando will have to figure out how to stop Charlotte’s duo of quarterback Chris Reynolds and wide receiver Grant DuBose, as both were named to the C-USA 2021 Honorable Mention list

What to watch for: This game is a great opportunity for both the offense and defense to get comfortable in their new systems before the true tests in the coming weeks. A solid performance on both sides of the ball, and more importantly a victory, in what will be the first appearance for many on FAU’s sideline, should set the tone for the season and put the rest of C-USA on notice. 

Sep. 3 at Ohio

The Owls’ first road appearance in 2022 will be in Athens, Ohio against the Ohio University Bobcats, the first-ever meeting between the two programs. 

The Bobcats are coming off a disappointing 2021 season, where they finished 3-9 and had constant struggles on both sides of the ball. Last season, the Ohio offense averaged 22.6 points per game, which ranked 106th in the FBS, while their defense allowed 30.3 points per game, ranking 96th in the FBS. 

What to watch for: This matchup will be the season opener for Ohio, so FAU will already have an extra week of experience before making the trip to Athens. With it being their first game of the year, the Bobcats are bound to make plenty of early-season mistakes. If the Owls can take advantage of those mishaps, they should secure the road win. 

Sep. 10 vs. Southeastern Louisiana 

Continuing their stretch of non-conference games, the Owls return home to take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions for the first time on the football field.

Southeastern Louisiana is looking to build off a solid 9-4 season in 2021 that ended in a 59-20 loss to James Madison University in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs.

Five returners from Southeastern Louisiana earned First Team Preseason All-Southland Conference honors, offensive linemen John Allen, Jalen Bell, and Garret Crawford, along with defensive backs Zy Alexander and Donniel Ward-Magee.

What to watch for: While they probably are not overlooking any of the opponents on the schedule, Taggart and his staff are more than likely looking forward to this game as preparation for the following two weeks, which may be the two toughest games of the year: Purdue and the University of Central Florida (UCF). FAU will need to play a near-perfect game on both sides of the ball if they are going to be confident heading into the next two games.

 Sep. 17 vs. UCF 

In what many have described as the most anticipated game on the Owls’ 2022 schedule, the UCF Knights will make the trip to Boca Raton. 

The last meeting between the programs came in 2019, with FAU falling 48-19 at home, making the Knights 3-0 against the Owls. This year’s matchup is the first of a home-and-home series agreed upon by the two programs in 2021, with the next game happening in 2025 at Orlando. 

With UCF being only two hours north, this matchup should draw one of, if not the largest, crowds of the season to Howard Schnellenberger Field. 

What to watch for: Explosive offense has been UCF’s trademark since former head coach Scott Frost’s near-complete revival of the program in 2017. That trend remained the same in Gus Malzahn’s first year as head coach in 2021, finishing ranked 37th of 130 teams in scoring offense, which many expected as he coached one of the most prolific offenses in college history at the University of Auburn in 2010. If the Owls are going to pull off the upset, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will have to find a way to slow down the UCF offense. 

Sep. 24 at Purdue

In their final non-conference matchup of the year, the Owls will travel to West Lafayette, Ind. in what will be the first matchup between the programs. 

The Boilermakers are coming off a breakthrough season in 2021 where they finished with nine wins, including upset victories over No. 2 Iowa on the road and No. 5 Michigan State at home. 

While they are returning second-team All-Big Ten quarterback Aidan O’Connell, they do have to make up for the production of their two best players in defensive end George Karalaftis and Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year David Bell, as both were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

What to watch for: This game has the potential to be the Owls’ toughest game of the season. Not only do the Boilermakers have one of the most talented rosters FAU will play, Big Ten stadiums are notoriously hostile environments, and Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium is no exception. If the crowd noise begins to affect the Owls early on, this could be a disastrous game for FAU.

Oct. 1 at North Texas *

Going on the road again, the Owls will take on the University of North Texas, the second meeting between the two programs in five years.

FAU lost 41-38 the last time the two programs met in 2018, but the all-time record is still 8-5 in favor of the Owls. 

North Texas had an odd season in 2021, starting the year going 1-6, followed by a five game winning streak to finish the regular season 6-6. They’re returning senior linebacker KD Davis who started all 13 games in 2021, racking up 121 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries, which earned him First Team All-CUSA honors in the coaches’ poll.

What to watch for: This will be the second consecutive game on the road for FAU, and right after what’s expected to be one of the tougher games of the season against Purdue so the Owls’ depth will be put to the test at Denton, Texas. Many second-team and young players will likely get the opportunity to help secure a conference victory against the Mean Green. 

Oct.15 vs. Rice *

Returning to Boca Raton, FAU will host the Rice University Owls, the second of five consecutive conference games for FAU. 

FAU’s only victory over Rice was a 42-25 road victory in 2016, after Rice took the two previous meetings in 2013 and 2015. 

Rice is coming off a 4-8 season where they finished 12th out of 14 C-USA teams in both scoring offense and scoring defense. 

What to watch for: While they had their struggles on offense last season, Rice is returning senior quarterback Jake Constantine and sophomore wide receiver Jake Bailey, who led the team in receiving yards. Sophomore running back Ari Broussard is also coming off a productive season where he rushed for 569 yards. With a year of experience together, Rice could turn out to have an offense to look out for.

Oct. 22 at UTEP *

Continuing their stretch of conference opponents, the Owls will travel to El Paso, Texas, to take on the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Miners. 

FAU took the previous meeting in a 28-25 victory last season, making the all-time record between the programs 2-1 in favor of FAU. 

The Miners’ offense will have to make up for the production of wide receiver Jacob Cowing who transferred to the University of Arizona in January. Cowing, who was ranked the 10th best receiver in the nation by Pro Football Focus lead analyst Anthony Treash, led the Miners with 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. 

What to watch for: This matchup will be the fourth consecutive conference game for FAU, while UTEP will be coming off of a bye week. The odds will probably favor the Miners, however, as C-USA did away with divisions for the 2022 season, making every conference game a must win game. 

Oct. 29 vs. UAB *

After a disappointing loss last season, FAU will surely be looking forward to this season’s matchup with the UAB Blazers.

The Blazers had a successful season in 2021 where they finished with a 9-4 record, including a 31-14 victory over FAU and a victory over No. 19 Brigham Young University (BYU) in the Independence Bowl. 

Last season’s defeat at the hands of the Blazers was the Owls’ first loss to UAB since 2014 and moved the all-time record between the two programs to 5-3.

What to watch for: UAB is a tough opponent to grade. They had a good season by most standards in 2021, and many expected the program to take the next step forward in 2022, as the program had continuously improved each season under head coach Bill Clark since the football program returned in 2014. However, on June 24, Clark announced he would be retiring from coaching on Aug. 1 for health reasons and offensive coordinator Bryan Vincent would serve as interim head coach. If the Blazers prove they can weather the changes early in the season, they should still be an opponent to look out for.

Nov. 12 at FIU *

The Shula Bowl will go back to Miami for the 2022 season. However, the Don Shula Award hasn’t stayed in Miami in over five years, with the Panthers’ last victory being in 2016. 

Last season’s 58-21 blowout victory at home over FIU, marked the fifth straight Shula Bowl victory for the Owls, and made Taggart 3-0 against his rival in his time at FAU. 

What to watch for: FIU declined to extend head coach of five years Butch Davis’ contract after the 2021 season, and named Mike MacIntyre as head coach last December. While they’ll be playing for their sixth consecutive Shula Bowl victory, they’ll be trying to keep MacIntyre from winning his first. 

Nov. 19 at Middle Tennessee *

The Owls will end their road schedule with a trip to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. 

FAU and Middle Tennessee have met up 18 times on the football field since 2003, with the Owls only winning five of those. 

The Owls ended their 2021 season with a 27–17 loss at home to the Blue Raiders, which was FAU’s fourth consecutive loss at the time. 

What to watch for: This game will be a homecoming for offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, who held the same position at Middle Tennessee in 2021. Under Dearmon, the Middle Tennessee offense averaged 362.2 yards and 30 points per game, which ranked fourth in C-USA. 

Nov. 26 vs. Western Kentucky *

FAU will conclude the 2022 regular season at home against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers, in what should be a “revenge game” for the Owls. 

Last season, FAU made the trip to Bowling Green, Ky., to take on the Hilltoppers in what was a homecoming for Taggart, who played quarterback, head coached, and had his jersey retired there. The Hilltoppers welcomed Taggart back with a brutal 52-17 loss at the hands of a 420-yard, six-touchdown performance by Hilltoppers’ quarterback Bailey Zappe.  

What to watch for: The Hilltoppers’ had a historically productive offense in 2021. However, they lost their two top contributors: in Zappe, who led the NCAA in passing yards with 5,967, and wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, who ranked first in the NCAA in receiving yards with 1,902. 


Despite losing those two, they retained wide receivers Mitchell Tinsley, who had 87 receptions for 1,402 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, and Daewood Davis, who had 43 receptions for 763 yards and 14 touchdowns. Any possibility of avenging last year’s defeat, will likely come down to the performance of the defense.  

FAU players come on the field in preparation for their game against Fordham University on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo by Eston Parker III.

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