FAU Football: Owls have one final shot at bowl eligibility against Western Kentucky

FAU last met Western Kentucky in a 52-17 loss in 2021.


Nicholas Windfelder

Brendan Bordner picks up N’kosi Perry after his touchdown against FIU on Nov. 12, 2022.

Trey Avant, Staff Writer

The Florida Atlantic Owls (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) will take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 5-2 C-USA) at home on Saturday, Nov. 26. In the final game of the regular season, FAU has one final shot at securing bowl eligibility for the first time since 2020. 

“We got to play like our lives depend on it,” head coach Willie Taggart said. “It’s gut-check time now. It’s going to test what’s inside all of us. We got to coach better, we got to play better. I do believe in this football team and I do believe they will come out and play better.”

FAU had an opportunity to become bowl eligible last week against Middle Tennessee, but fell apart in a 49-21 defeat. FAU struggled on the road, finishing with a 1-5 record in those games.

Fortunately for the Owls, they will be playing Western Kentucky in Boca Raton, where they have a 4-1 record. Unfortunately for the Owls, they are taking on a team with a high-powered offense.

For the past two seasons, the Hilltoppers had one of college football’s most dynamic aerial attacks. Last season, it was quarterback Bailey Zappe torching opposing defenses. This season, they are led by senior quarterback Austin Reed.

Reed has thrown for 3,837 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns which rank second and fourth in the NCAA respectively.. Under Reed, WKU has the nation’s third-ranked passing offense.

“He’s got a very strong arm, he’s got a really quick release, and he has some very talented receivers out there and a good o-line,” Taggart said. “We have to do a great job of covering their receivers and rushing the passer. They’re very talented, especially at the receiver position.”

Sophomore wide receiver Malachi Corley has been the primary benefactor of Reed’s outstanding play. This season, Corley has recorded 82 catches for 1,052 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He is seventh in the NCAA in receiving yards.

Senior wide receiver Daewood Davis is also having a solid season. He has recorded 63 catches for 872 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.

Sophomore tight end Joshua Simon is someone FAU should really key in on, as he is one of Reed’s favorite targets in the red zone. Simon has seven touchdown receptions on only 17 catches this season.

While FAU has struggled defensively this season, they are very opportunistic. If FAU is able to generate enough pressure on Reed, they may be able to force him into mistakes.

WKU has a questionable run defense, and junior FAU running back Larry McCammon III has been solid all season. This season, McCammon III has rushed for 877 yards and five touchdowns.

FAU’s offensive line has done a good job of opening lanes for the running backs. As long as McCammon and freshman running back Zuberi Mobley keep getting opportunities, they can keep FAU in the game.

Quarterback N’Kosi Perry has been solid this year and will be going up against an average WKU secondary, but what is not clear is which version of Perry will show up. He has put up good numbers but has been inconsistent.

This season, Perry has thrown for 2,428 yards, 23 passing touchdowns, and five interceptions. He has also been solid on the ground, with 227 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. If he can avoid any costly mistakes, get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, and make plays with his feet, he could give FAU a shot at the upset.

“It is very important we get this win for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, for our seniors… who have played so much and done so much for our program… and for our program and where we’re going, to get a bowl game and build on that as we move into the future with our football program,” Taggart said. “Last game of the year, you always want to win that game so the importance level is sky high for this football game and our guys, our coaches are fired up about the challenge we have in front of us.”

The game is set for Saturday, Nov. 26, at noon and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Trey Avant is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @TreyAvant3.