The 8th-ranked Florida Gators (9-1, 7-1) will take on the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-8, 2-5 C-USA) for just the third time in school history on Saturday. While the Gators dominated the first two meetings with a combined score of 100-23, head coach Jim McElwain wouldn’t be surprised to see FAU give the Gators some problems.
McElwain’s concern begins with the Owls senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson. Johnson on the year has thrown for close to 1350 yards with eight touchdowns while adding 227 yards rushing with an extra trip to pay dirt. His favorite target is senior wide-out Jenson Stoshak who has 46 receptions, 23 more than the next closest receiver on the roster, for 680 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the rivalry game against Florida State coming up next week, the coaching staff is making sure the players are focused solely on FAU and Linebackers coach Randy Shannon has been pleased with what he’s seen at practice this week.
The dual threat capabilities of Johnson and his connection with Stoshak could allow the Owls to move the ball against a vaunted Gators defense if they can limit turnovers. On the year, the Gators are 13th in the country in turnover margin having forced 21 while committing 12. The Owls are even, forcing 20 turnovers and giving the ball back to their opponents 20 times as well.
Johnson has thrown four interceptions on the year, and the Gator secondary will be looking for more. Vernon Hargreaves III leads the team with four interceptions this season but following close behind is Jalen Tabor, who has picked off three passes and returned two of those for touchdowns. According to Shannon, Tabor’s good play was expected as the sophomore has matured both on and off the field.
On the injury front, McElwain noted on Wednesday that defensive linemen Joey Ivie, Jordan Sherit, and Alex McCalister all remain out for this weekend’s game. The Owls offensive line has struggled this season against the pass rush giving up an average of just over two sacks per game. Even without the three defensive lineman, Shannon doesn’t expect much of a drop off.
Offensively, the Gators will look to build off of their 400-yard performance versus South Carolina. FAU allows an average of 428 yards per game, 243 through the air and 185 on the ground, but, much like Florida, the Owls do get after the passer totaling just over two sacks per game. Offensive lineman David Sharpe could also join the trio of defensive linemen on the sideline as he is questionable after re-aggravating a foot injury which forced him to miss the 1st half of the Vanderbilt game.
To help the team remain focused on the task at hand versus FAU, McElwain has gone back to his favorite analogy to inspire the Gators.
— Jonathan Perez (@_JonathanMPerez) November 18, 2015
The Gators and Owls will kickoff just past noon on Saturday in the Swamp.