Florida Atlantic (1-2) at Wyoming (2-1) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: Mountain West Network. Home Record: FAU 1-0, Wyoming 2-0. Away Record: FAU 0-2, Wyoming 0-1. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 0-0, Wyoming 1-0. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Out on the road for the third time in the first four weeks of the season, the Owls of FAU find themselves pitted against the Wyoming Cowboys in a non-conference bout at War Memorial Stadium this weekend.
The Owls were treated rather badly by the people who put together the schedule as they faced Nebraska and Alabama, both on the road, during the first two weeks. The squad was outscored by a combined 96-7 in those two defeats, but FAU was able to bounce back in a big way last weekend.
In front of the home crowd, the Owls opened up the offensive playbook and generated 50 points in a 29-point victory over visiting Tulsa. The win was the first for new head coach Charlie Partridge.
Wyoming was out on the road last weekend for the first time this season, but the squad was simply overwhelmed by an electrifying Oregon squad by a score of 48-14. Prior to the setback, Wyoming had opened the campaign with back-to-back victories against the likes of Montana and Air Force, the latter being a Mountain West Conference contest.
The Pokes won the only previous meeting between these two squads five seasons ago, squeezing out a 30-28 decision at home.
Against the visiting Golden Hurricane, FAU scored the first 17 points of the night and never looked back, thanks in large part to the performance of quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who not only threw three TD passes, but also added another score on the ground. Johnson converted 15-of-20 passes for 318 yards and was intercepted only once during the rout.
Defensively, Damian Parms led the way with a team-best 11 tackles, adding a forced fumble, while D'Joun Smith recovered a fumble and returned an interception 23 yards for a score midway through the first quarter for the Owls.
The effort by the FAU defense was a major change following the first two games of the season when the group surrendered 55 and 41 points to Nebraska and Alabama, respectively. The team still has a long way to go to offset those weaker efforts, but you can be sure it will whittle away at the 39.0 ppg and the 589.0 ypg currently being allowed, the latter leaving the Owls ranks 124th in the country entering play this week.
The production by Johnson on Saturday night versus Tulsa was certainly a good sign for a program that was limited to a combined seven points through the first two contests, but still there is much improvement to be made. Outside of running back Jay Warren, who has carried the ball 36 times for 196 yards, but has yet to reach the end zone, there is little threat coming from a rushing offense that is 103rd in the nation with just 113.0 ypg.
Wyoming scored the only points of the first quarter during the meeting with mighty Oregon, the second-ranked team in the nation, but from there the Cowboys got a first-hand look at why the Ducks are such a devastating squad. Before the Pokes knew what hit them, Oregon had rattled off 41 unanswered and easily cruised to the home win.
Slinging the ball down the field for the Cowboys was quarterback Colby Kirkegaard, who hit Tanner Gentry with an 18-yard TD strike at the 1:02 mark of the first quarter to get the visitors off the on the right foot. Kirkegaard led a drive that required 11 plays to traverse almost the length of the field (98 yards) and give the Pokes a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, the only other points for Wyoming came more than 30 minutes later when Kirkegaard found D.J. May with a 12-yard TD pass.
Kirkegaard finished the contest 19-of-33 for 284 yards, was picked off twice and suffered five sacks. Running back Shaun Wick also had a productive day with a game-high 122 yards on 16 carries, but the rest of the Cowboys accounted for a mere 33 yards.
The Wyoming defense, particularly the players who were tasked with slowing down the running attack of the Ducks, gave up 263 yards and five touchdowns, two by Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota, who also converted all but four of his 23 pass attempts for another two scores.
If nothing else, the Cowboys can be proud of the fact that they are tied for third in the nation with just 2.7 penalties per contest, and are fifth in yardage assessed (22.3 ypg). Unfortunately, there's a lot more that goes into being a successful program, but at least the squad is disciplined.
Now the Cowboys have to work on getting their offense into gear and scoring more than just 16.0 ppg, which has the group checking in at 116th nationally this week. The squad is posting decent yardage (357.7 ypg), but scoring only 63.6 percent of the time when in the red zone is going to hurt the Pokes as the season rolls along.
When the competition is more to their liking, the Owls can certainly put some points on the board, but trying to do so against a physical Wyoming defense could be tougher than the visitors think. Johnson might have some more plays he can spring on an opponent, but after clashing with Oregon the Cowboys are probably ready for anything.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 21, Florida Atlantic 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 20, 4 p.m. (ET).