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Florida Atlantic at Purdue Preview

Purdue’s final non-conference game comes against a first time opponent.

UCF v FAU Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Saturday night needs to be a get-right game for Purdue. The Syracuse loss was among the most frustrating in recent memory, but in the long run at least it is not a conference game. The West still looks very weak and if Purdue can right things and pull off a win in Minneapolis next week it will be right back in the hunt despite the Penn State loss.

None of that happens without a win over Florida Atlantic, however. Purdue is favored by a decent sized margin, but this is still a dangerous team. Like many MAC squads we see, they are full of talented athletes that were overlooked by Power 5 schools. They also have a number of players that began their careers at Power 5 schools. That makes them a talented club that cannot be overlooked.

Also, Purdue has a lot to work on. The tackling was better against Indiana State and Syracuse, but penalties and dumb mistakes did us in. If Purdue wins and this becomes a tune-up game, that is great. If Purdue struggles or loses, watch out.

Florida Atlantic Owls

2021 Record: 5-7, 3-5 Conference USA

2022 Record: 2-2, 1-0 Conference USA

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: The Owl’s Nest

Series with Purdue: First Meeting

Last Purdue win: None

Last Florida Atlantic win: None

Head Coach: Willie Taggart (12-13 in third year at FAU, 68-75 overall)

Florida Atlantic’s season so far:

FAU has already played four games, as they were one of the teams that played in week 0. Their opponent that week, Charlotte, later plays Western Kentucky, who also plays FAU. Since Western Kentucky played at Hawaii already, thus allowing them a week 0 game, that meant some shuffling of schedules. Thus, FAU and Charlotte’s Conference USA game was moved to week 0.

The Owls have alternated wins and losses so far. They blew out Charlotte 43-13 in the opener, then lost a shootout at Ohio 41-38. They beat FCS Southeast Louisiana 42-9, but turned around and lost at home last week to Central Florida 40-14.

If you’re big into transitive property, they were blown out by a UCF team that had just lost to Louisville. Louisville was then coming off of a multi-score loss at Syracuse, where Purdue should have won if not for its own self-inflicted wounds. If you want a transitive view of Purdue’s third conference game. Charlotte hosted Maryland and lost by 35.

Who to Watch on Offense

N’Kosi Perry – QB – Perry is a formerly high-rated quarterback who started his career at the University of Miami. He started a few times in his three years at Da U, but fell behind D’Eriq King when he transferred in and eventually Tyler Van Dyke became the heir apparent, so he transferred up the road to FAU. As the primary started last year Perry threw for 2,771 yards and 20 TDs against 7 picks. He is not as run-first as Garrett Shrader last week, but he is mobile with 410 yards rushing and nine scores in his career. So far this season has been good. He has 987 yards and 10 TDs against only two picks in four games. Perry is a very experienced quarterback since this is his fifth year of college football. He has thrown for over 6,000 yards in his career. He is the type of QB that makes these Group of 5 teams dangerous.

Larry McCammon – RB – McCammon is averaging nearly 100 yards per game on the ground and 7.3 yards per carry. He also has scored twice. He is in his fourth year at FAU, but this is his first year as the primary running back. Zuberi Mobley, a freshman from Miami, has also been good as his backup with 270 yards and 3 TDs.

LaJohntay Wester – WR – Wester is the team’s leading receiver with 239 yards and 4 touchdowns off of 20 receptions. That comes out to five catches per game, making him a prime target. Last season h caught 65 passes for 702 yards and four scores. He is a smaller, quicker receiver, so he is capable of making a big play. Freshman Jahmal Edrine has also had a solid debut season with 14 receptions for 206 yards and two scores.

Aside from the UCF game the Owls have been a high scoring team. They average 34.2 points per game, but they are still trialing Penn State and Syracuse in that category. They are one of the nation’s best rushing teams, going for 221 yards per game. That is 22nd nationally. Only Minnesota (2nd) and Illinois (21st) rate ahead of them as far as teams on Purdue’s schedule. I think that makes this a good test before going to Minneapolis.

Who to Watch on Defense

Eddie Williams – LB – Williams has been a tackling machine so far with a team high 38. He also has a pair of sacks. This is his fourth year in the program and it is his best season by far. The two sacks were the first of his career.

Jayden Williams – CB – Williams is their top cornerback and he will be tested by the red hot Charlie Jones. He has 27 tackles and two sacks on the season, but he does not yet have an interception. He played sparingly last year as a true freshman, so he is still a young player to build around.

Armani Eli-Adams – S – Eli-Adams is third on the team with 22 tackles. Like Eddie Williams, he is a fourth year player that is really coming into his own this season after being with the program a long time.

The FAU defense has seen mixed results so far. It was torched by UCF and Ohio, but it was solid against Charlotte and SE Louisiana. The run defense is rather pedestrian at 137.8 yards per game, but that means nothing if Purdue does not commit to the run. The pass defense is 113th in the nation, however. Purdue is sixth in the nation at throwing the ball, so there will be room for Aidan O’Connell to have a big day.

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Wester – PR – Wester is not only the top receiver on the team, he is a good punt returner. He already has a 41 yard return this year, while Purdue has yet to break any significant return.

Riley Thompson – P – Thompson is at least punting at a Big Ten level, as he averages over 44 yards per kick. He has four punts over 50 yards and has placed 6 inside the 20 yard line.

Morgan Suarez – K – Suarez is 4 of 5 on the year on field goals and his only miss was blocked. He has a long of 43. It should be noted that FAU has struggled to get touchbacks on kickoffs, so this could be a game for a big kickoff return.

Game Outlook

As I said above, this needs to be a get-right game. FAU is a lot better than Indiana State, but they are not at the same level as Penn State or Syracuse. That makes them a solid litmus test. If Purdue cruises, it is an encouraging sign that we have shaken off the two losses and we’re ready to compete with the tougher teams on the schedule ahead. If Purdue struggles or even loses, watch out.

As always, I want to see more out of the running game. A big reason for Purdue’s two losses was an inability to move the clock on the ground with any consistency. We’re always going to be pass first, but the run at least needs to be a threat. The last time it felt like a threat was probably when Zander Horvath was racking up 100 yard games two years ago.

I do expect a big game from AOC though. Purdue is the toughest test on FAU’s schedule and they have struggled against UCF and Ohio. Purdue should be able to win comfortably, but we have thought that before. Jeff Brohm has lost these types of games before, but at least last year it beat the teams it should beat.