Coming off a tremendous home-opening victory over Tulsa, Florida Atlantic is riding high as they approach this week's match-up with Wyoming. The Cowboys enter this week after a less-than-stellar performance against one of the better teams in the country, Oregon.
It was only a week ago that we were left wondering how FAU would respond after a shellacking of their own, so I'm not putting much stake into Wyoming's final outcome. What I will acknowledge is the growth this program has shown in such a short time under new head coach, Craig Bohl. Charlie Partridge and the Owls will have their hands full in Laramie. Here are the five keys to FAU heading back home with a victory:
Push The Tempo:
Florida Atlantic "established" their off-kilter tempo early against Tulsa. This mixed pace was absent during the first two games of the season, although the Owls weren't exactly in the position to be dictating the flow of the game. This facet of the FAU offense remains a personal favorite of mine: every series moves at a different pace. The Owls can run a hurry-up, no-huddle offense and still hike the ball with five seconds left in the play clock. It is extremely frustrating and it leaves the defense on pins and needles. Their pace is less "pull the defense offsides" and more to the extent of catching the opposition off-rhythm. With that said, look for the Owls to implement more speed in a similar fashion to Oregon. The Ducks run with a particular brand of fast, but expect FAU to replicate their tempo on a good amount of drives.
Pressure Colby Kirkegaard:
Wyoming quarterback Colby Kirkegaard is good. Not the best QB the Owls will face this season, but he is a formidable foe. Kirkegaard can make all the throws his offense asks of him, but similar to the last quarterback FAU faced, Dane Evans of Tulsa, Kirkegaard can get rattled. If the Owls can apply the same pressure they put on Evans, those easy pocket passes will turn into broken plays. Evans cracked before halftime. Florida Atlantic should try and do the same to Kirkegaard.
Stop The Run:
Honestly, I did not anticipate the early success of Wyoming's run game. It is vaguely terrifying how efficient they have been; especially against an actual good team like Oregon. FAU will have to stop running backs D.J. May and Shaun Wick — not just stop them, but make sure they don't even cross the line of scrimmage. Their running styles allow them to move through initial contact at a pace I am uncomfortable with. Florida Atlantic has been terrible against the run this year and if they want to have any chance to beat Wyoming, it is going to involve stopping the run.
More Big Plays:
FAU jumped all over Tulsa last week with a slew of big plays. Deep posts, onside kicks and timely turnovers did the Golden Hurricane in and they really had no answer for each explosive occurrence. The Owls will need to bust out the big play book once again for a chance to win in Wyoming. More deep balls, more turnovers and a few trick plays should do the trick. Hopefully, the execution is the same as it was in Boca.
Keep The Momentum Going:
The 2014 Florida Atlantic Owls won a football game! The monkey is off coach Partridge's back and the real sports can finally take place. FAU is on an extreme uptick right now and the Owls have to keep that momentum moving on the road. Playing in Boca has been good to Florida Atlantic recently, but it is away from home where the true turmoil starts to appear. The Owls can reach .500 for the first time since the end of last season with a win on Saturday. A little bit of execution, trickery and tempo should have the Owls rolling into conference play on a two-game winning streak.