Defend Paradise, Wear Red

Know Before You Go
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Florida Atlantic University’s football team continues its prep for this Saturday’s game versus UCF slated for 7:30 p.m. at FAU Stadium. The game will be broadcasted by CBSSN as well as on Fox Sports 640 AM South Florida.

Owl fans are asked to wear RED for the game, which is the fourth meeting between the two schools and the second at FAU’s Boca Raton campus. All fans are encouraged to arrive early and to enjoy this year’s biggest Palm Beach County sporting event.

Today, we heard from Todd Orlando, FAU’s defensive coordinator, who has guided a defensive staff that has held FAU opponents to an average of 21 points through the first three games of the season.

FAU’s defense is ranked among the nation’s top-25 in four categories which are defensive TDs (No. 7 with one), team sacks (No. 16 with 3.0 per game), rushing defense (No. 22 with 79.0 per game) and third down conversion defense (No. 24 with a percentage of .257).


Defensive Coordinator and ILB Coach Todd Orlando
On where the team stands through the first quarter of the season
“It’s been decent. I’m really proud of the guys for the way they came out of the locker room for the third quarter last week. This opponent is a big climb in class, it’ll present a whole bunch of challenges, so we’ll see where we’re at this week. The only thing we can control is the way that we practice. We’ll go out here and have a good day.”

On defending UCF’s QB
“He’s an athlete, but he’s a competitor. I love him on tape, because he’s got a swagger about him. He’s tough too. He wants to run the football. He can make you miss but he’s tough enough to go after you and run the football. It’s been very impressive. To me, that’s the type of guy you want as a quarterback: a super ferocious competitor. I don’t know him personally, but I just go off of the film and I can tell those traits.”

On adjusting against the QB
“I think any time you get into a dual threat guy, you always have to be mindful of his legs, extending plays on the perimeter whether he wants to run it or throw it. We have to be ready.”

On coaching a big game for FAU
“When our guys walk on this field, and it’s a full house and the place is rocking, I don’t think we have to get our guys up for this game, but once again it goes back to the preparation. It’s about what we do in practice. Will there be more energy in that stadium? Absolutely. Will our guys be a little bit more motivated? Probably. We would hope that every game is, it’s about us and not necessarily the environment, but it should be rocking. We’re fired up for that, to have this community and fan support, I know it’s close to a sellout, it’s great for this university.”

On the UCF wide receiver room
“(They are) strong, run really good routes, they’re fast, they’re quick, they’re explosive. They create the challenge of overall top end speed and that’s what you can’t simulate. Now, we can get some guys on our scout team that can run around and do all of that, but I think the preparation, especially in the first five to 10 plays of us getting used to how fast this thing is going to be and us running to the football is going to be ultimately key in the first couple of series’.”

On stepping up as a defense
“Anytime you’re dealing with speed, quickness and agility, the strain to the ball has to increase tenfold when you’re dealing with a group like this. Because if they can get you in space, you can’t expect one person to make a singular tackle, that doesn’t happen in football. You would hope that it happens, but versus really good players, the percentage is very low. But you add one more person closer to the pile, the percentage skyrockets. Add two or three or four, then it goes up astronomically. That’s going to be the key to this game. We know we’re going to get paced. We have to do a great job of running to the football, and then we can’t be afraid to roll guys into the ballgame. This is why we train all of these guys early on in camp so there is a comfort level with putting them into the game. But they have to earn it on the practice field. One thing we stress is there are no participation awards. He has to prove to us during the week that we can win with him, and that’s through their habits in practice.”

Redshirt Freshman Kicker Morgan Suarez
On his time at FAU
“My first year here was the COVID-19 (year), so I didn’t get here until the beginning of fall camp and then I only had a few opportunities here and there. Since I got here, it’s been a grind with the offseason and Joey (Guarascio)’s workouts. I think I added about 10 to 15 yards to my balls from freshman year to now. I got my starting job as the field goal kicker and hopefully I hang onto it for the next couple of years.”

On being the full-time kicker
“This week will be a huge opportunity. I haven’t had what some people would say is a pressure kick, where it’s coming down to the wire and you have to make this for your team. I haven’t had one of those yet, I want to, I’m begging for it. Hopefully I get one this weekend. I love going out there and knowing the team is on my back.”

On what he wants to improve on
“Just being more disciplined with watching my foot make contact with the ball. I work on it every day in practice. I always have Coach DK (David Kelly) in my ear about it. It’s just one of those things I have to keep working on.”

On his nerves entering the UCF game
“Same game, same kick. Everything about my kicking is always going to be the same. It doesn’t matter if there are 12 guys or 13 guys coming at me. All I have to worry about is kicking, that’s it. And I have a good operation with (Long snapper) Nick Marino and (Holder) Willie Taggart Jr.”

Sophomore DL Jaden Wheeler
On facing UCF’s offensive line
“It’s a big opportunity for us, just with this whole university. We’re prepared to win.”

On the defensive line rotation
“For the most part, we’re trying to keep everybody fresh. That’s what you need for big games like this.”

On Jacob Merrifield stepping up with Evan Anderson out
“Merrifield studied up a lot. We all knew Merrifield could play, and then an opportunity came, and he took advantage of it.”


FAU Coaches Radio Show
For free mobile listening of all game broadcasts and coaches shows, FAU fans can download the Varsity Network app for iPhone or Android. The app features instant access to free gameday audio streams and the ability for fans to receive push notifications to remind them of games starting or upcoming audio broadcasts. Local fans can tune in to Hubbard Radio (Fox Sports South Florida 640 AM) to follow the team.
FAU Television Inside the Owls Burrow

This week’s show will include a sit down with Hagerty Family Head Football Coach Willie Taggart. Show host and producer Frank Forte and Taggart will review last week’s win over Southeastern Louisiana and this week’s showdown with in-state foe UCF. The show will air on Thursday and Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. on Bally Sports Florida. Hear from a mic’d up offensive line coach Ed Warinner as he puts his experience offensive line group through the practice paces. Jahmal Edrine is featured in “Pads Off”, plus catch up with inaugural team member and offensive lineman Chris Shepherd in “Where Are They Now.”


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