Owls have one last shot at bowl eligibility vs. Western Kentucky – UNIVERSITY PRESS

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

The Florida Atlantic Owls (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) meet the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 5-2 C-USA) at home on Saturday, November 26. In the regular season, FAU has one last chance to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2020.

“We have to play like our lives depend on it,” said head coach Willie Taggart. “Now it’s time for a gut check. It will test what is in all of us. We have to train better, we have to play better. I believe in this football team and I believe they will come out and play better.”

FAU had a chance to qualify for the Bowl against Middle Tennessee last week but fell apart in a 49-21 loss. FAU struggled away and finished those games with a 1-5 record.

Luckily for the Owls, they play Western Kentucky in Boca Raton where they have a 4-1 record. Unfortunately for the Owls, they are up against a team with a strong offense.

Over the past two seasons, the Hilltoppers have had one of college football’s most dynamic air attacks. Last season, it was quarterback Bailey Zappe who set opposing defenses on fire. This season they are led by senior quarterback Austin Reed.

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

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

Sophomore wide receiver Malachi Corley was the primary beneficiary of Reed’s stellar play. This season, Corley has 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 63 catches for 872 yards and seven touchdowns.

Sophomore tight end Joshua Simon is someone FAU should really address as he’s one of Reed’s favorite red-zone targets. Simon has seven touchdown receptions on just 17 catches this season.

While FAU have struggled defensively this season, they are very opportunistic. If FAU can put enough pressure on Reed, they can potentially force him to make mistakes.

WKU has a questionable running 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 did a good job opening up lanes for the running backs. As long as McCammon and freshman running back Zuberi Mobley keep getting chances, they can keep FAU in the game.

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

This season, Perry has thrown for 2,428 yards, 23 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He was also solid on the ground, with 227 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. If he can avoid costly mistakes, get the ball in the hands of his playmakers and play with his feet, he could give FAU a chance to anger.

“It’s very important for us to get this win for many reasons. First and foremost for our seniors…who’ve 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 forward with our football program ‘ Taggart said. “The last game of the year, you always want to win that game so the importance of this football game is sky high and our lads, our coaches, are excited about the challenge that we have ahead of us.”

The game is scheduled for noon on Saturday, November 26 and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Trey Avant is a staff writer at University Press. You will receive information about this or other stories by e-mail [email protected] or tweet him @TreyAvant3.

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