Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Florida Atlantic Preview

Sep 3, 2021 | 0 comments

Dan Mullen’s fourth season gets underway Saturday evening in the Swamp when Florida takes on Florida Atlantic in the 2021 season opener.

Inside the Gators has the very latest on the match-up in this Game Week Breakdown. Allen Barney breaks down the Owls with his answers to five burning questions as well as previewing five FAU players Gator fans should keep an eye on this weekend.

Five FAU Owls players to keep an eye on

1) N’Kosi Perry, Quarterback, Grad Transfer from Miami

  • The Skinny: Perry was a four-star quarterback recruit who chose Miami as the first quarterback signee in the Manny Diaz era. Perry played parts of three seasons for the Hurricanes, throwing for 2,484 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Reports are that Perry has learned the system despite missing spring practice and will pose as a dual-threat, which has been a thorn in the side of Gator defenses for years.

2) Antarrius Moultrie, Inside Linebacker, Redshirt Freshman

  • The Skinny: Moultrie has drawn rave reviews in preseason camp and will be starting over senior inside linebacker Akileis LeRoy. Moultrie played in just three games in 2020 as a true freshman, and recorded three tackles. A little light at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds Moultrie will be tasked to fill the run gaps of an expected run-heavy Gator offense.

3) LaJohntay Wester, Slot Receiver, Freshman

  • The Skinny: Not too many freshman receivers that are 5-foot-11, 163-pounds find the field in their first year on campus, but Wester is an exception. Reports are that Wester will use his small frame to fit in the slot role and has created a connection with N’Kosi Perry. Lester’s shiftiness and speed could lead to Gator linebackers being too slow to cover him and forcing the defensive backfield to play catch up with the speedster.

4) Chase Lasater, Outside Linebacker, Redshirt Junior

  • The Skinny: Lasater is the Owls top returning tackler from 2020 with 72 tackles and two forced fumbles. Lasater played inside linebacker the past three years but made the switch to the outside in spring practice and reportedly looking fierce as a rusher from the edge. Lasater could cause problems in the pocket for the Gators.

5) TJ Chase, Wide Receiver, Grad Transfer

  • The Skinny: Chase is a two-time national champion with the Clemson Tigers. After not moving up the depth chart in Death Valley, Chase took his talents to Boca Raton and became the Owls leading receiver in 2020 with 23 receptions for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chase is expected to be the #1 target for Perry on opening night and will be the main priority of top cornerback Kaiir Elam.

Five Interesting Facts

  • This will be the fourth meeting between the Owls and the Gators. UF has won all three previous matchups by the scores of 59-20 in 2007, 41-3 in 2011, and 20-14 in overtime in 2015.
  • Willie Taggart enters his second year as the Owls’ head coach. Previously, as the head coach of Florida State Seminoles, he and lost his only match up to the Gators in 2018 by a score of 41-14. That loss ended the Seminoles NCAA record of consecutive bowl appearances at 36.
  • The Owls have never beaten a ranked team and sit with a record of 0-19 against such teams. The program has not registered a win against a Power 5 team.
  • NFL Hall of Fame Receiver Hines Ward works on the FAU staff as an assistant offensive coach. This will be his first year with the program as he looks to climb the coaching ladder following a successful playing career. Peter Warrick Jr., the son of Florida State Seminoles legend Peter Warrick, is a freshman safety for the Owls.
  • According to the National Weather Service, the temperature at kickoff is predicted to be 83 degrees. The Owls program record in games in which the temperature is 80 degrees or higher at kickoff is 51-60 but they have lost the last three such games. After losing the season-opening game from 2017-2019, the Owls broke the streak last season against Charlotte and hold an overall record of 7-13 in season openers.

Five Game Day Storylines

Is there a better scenario for quarterback Emory Jones to get his first start?

  • Jones has patiently waited for three years behind Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask to become QB1 for the Gators. While this is not a cupcake game, this is a good spot for Jones to get acclimated to being the man by hosting a less-equipped team under the lights in the Swamp.

Will FAU’s offense, specifically N’Kosi Perry, cause issues that hampered the Gators defense in 2020?

  • The Gators history against good pocket-passers under Todd Grantham has been criticized because of the pressure it puts on the secondary when the blitzes are picked up by the opponent’s offensive line. Pocket passers such as Mac Jones, Kellen Mond, and Max Johnson had all day to scan the field and complete easy passes due to number issues from multiple defenders rushing the quarterback. Perry has wheels but the offense is expected to be a pass-first unit with talented receivers littered on the roster.

Can FAU’s defense stuff the Gators’ run game, forcing Dan Mullen to lean on the passing game?

  • The run game has been effective at times since 2018 but the strength of the offenses in 2019 and 2020 was the passing game. The interior offensive line has taken a lot of blame for the lack of a creating a push for the running backs and forces them to bounce to the outside for yardage. According to reports, the FAU defense has a lot of depth and will be a strong unit in 2021. Pass rushers such Chase Lasater and Jaylen Joyner are returning; Joyner led the Owls with nine sacks in 2020.

Can the Owls stop Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson?

  • The Owls defense will have to gameplan and expect to see Jones and Richardson. Jones is the clear starter and will play more snaps, but Richardson will play. The strength of Jones’ game are his ability to find open running lanes and throw a good deep ball. Will the Owls linebackers stay back in coverage and force Jones to make accurate throws in the short and intermediate game? Can Richardson come in and lead a two-minute drive in a close game if Jones gets hurt? Everyone should expect Taggart to throw the kitchen sink at these relatively unproven quarterbacks.

Will players on the FAU roster that are from the state of Florida play with a chip on its shoulder?

There are 83 players on the FAU roster who are from the state of Florida. Not that every high school football player in Florida dreams of going to UF, but many of the players on the Owls roster played with or against most of the Gators roster. This could be the perfect motivational tool for Taggart to use for his players as his squad tries to pull of an upset win that could change the perception of the FAU football program.

Game Prediction

  • My final prediction is Florida beating FAU by a score of 49-21.

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