Football Returns to C-USA Play at UNT, Taggart Talk

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Florida Atlantic University football team will be on the road for the second-consecutive week, only this week’s game will feature Conference USA play, pitting the Owls and the University of North Texas. FAU (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) and UNT (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) are scheduled to kickoff at 4 p.m. eastern, in Denton, Texas. Fans can watch the game on ESPN+ or tune in via Fox Sports 640 AM South Florida for the call.

The Owls hold an 8-5 all-time record against the Mean Green spanning back to 2004, a game also played at UNT, when FAU was in its first transition year towards the FBS level. The two teams then squared off the next three years, while FAU was completing its requirements for full FBS membership and then the teams continued play as members of the Sun Belt Conference from 2007-2012. Both made the move to Conference USA in 2013. FAU held a 6-4 record versus UNT heading into the 2017 season, a season that the Owls defeated UNT twice, both in Boca Raton and the final time was to secure the program’s first C-USA Championship. The Owls played in Denton, Texas in 2018, the two teams’ last meeting, and fell 41-38.

Heading into the weekend, expect redshirt sophomore LaJohntay Wester to play a pivotal role in the game as the nation’s leader in touchdown receptions. Defensively, the Owls are led by junior linebacker Eddie Williams, who has a team-leading 52 tackles and is ranked No. 14 nationally with 10.4 tackles per game.


Hagerty Family Football Head Coach Willie Taggart
On Sophomore WR LeJohntay Wester
“Just like with all of these guys, they all need time to develop and get better. That’s what we’re seeing out of LaJohntay now, he’s on his third year and he has developed. He’s been playing since [he was] a freshman now. Experience can work wonders for you. The kid not only is developing and getting better, he is developing and getting better with his work ethic and understanding how to prepare and work so that he can play that way. What we see on Saturday is exactly how he practices. This whole offseason, he’s done a great job of working with N’Kosi (Perry) and those guys being on the same page with his route running and how he’s going to break his routes and do certain things. I’m glad the rest of our players are seeing it too because they’re seeing all of that hard work pay off for him. It all comes with experience.”

On North Texas RBs
“They’re big backs that can run. They’re going to commit to the run offensively. Those guys do a good job, the o-line does a good job of blocking and the backs are good. They don’t have to change up what they do because of the back that’s in the game, they continue to run their offense. You see who and what their identity is as a football team, and they’re going to try to run the football. We have to do a great job of trying to stop the run in this ball game.”

On the state of FAU entering conference play
“We have seen a football team that knows how to play the game, that has shown that they can win games, but we have also seen a team that has done some things to themselves that causes them to lose…It was great to see our guys compete the way they did against Purdue. It showed that we can compete for four quarters and be in that game. Our guys dealt with adversity well in that ball game, which was good to see to keep them in that ball game. The problem is we keep hurting ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We all see it as a football team knowing that we have to correct those. If we don’t have those turnovers and penalties, we’re probably an undefeated football team right now. It’s adamant that we get those things corrected. It’s not a discipline thing, I think our guys are just trying so hard to win that we’re just not playing smart when we try so hard. We have to be able to try hard and play smart as well. I think it’s going to come for our guys, but we have to improve in those areas.”

On depth in the secondary
“That was the plan coming in, to play a lot of guys, so that we can play throughout the whole year. The first two years here, I felt we didn’t have the depth and, I thought our football team wore down as the season went on because of depth. This year coming in, we felt this is the most depth we had as a team. We want to play a lot of guys throughout the year, one to continue to develop them, but also to keep our guys fresh throughout the entire year. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of injuries from the first game on the defensive side of the ball. We still haven’t played an entire game with our starters on the defensive side of the ball. On the flip side, we got a lot of guys some reps early on in the year. That’s going to pay off for us as we continue to go and get guys back.”

On North Texas’ defense
“Both of their linebackers are really good football players. They do some things up front to try to get you. I know they’ve had some injuries too, but I think their defense is led by those linebackers. For us offensively, it’s just about executing and trying to stay out of those ruts where we’re coming out of the half and not starting fast. We’ve had plenty of plays that we leave out or we just don’t execute well. We have to be better consistently executing plays while we’re out there. That’s going to be a huge focus for our guys, just one play at a time, and focus on executing.”

On the road environment
“I thought our guys did a great job handling the crowd noise. That wasn’t the issue at all. It just shows we can go and compete on the road; we just have to go win the game. Like Al Davis said, ‘just win baby.’ It’s football, no matter if it’s here in Boca or on the road, it’s a 100-yard field with hashmarks and numbers and a goal post. That’s all it comes down to. There’s no secret or anything like that, we just have to go and play winning football.”


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 game at Purdue and will look ahead to this week’s contest at North Texas. The show will also feature wide receiver Je’Quan Burton in “Pads Off” and the “Where Are They Now” segment, will feature former Owl safety Sharrod Neasman. Left tackle and grad transfer Brendan Bordner and his grandmother, will be showcased in the final segment. Gale Bordner was the Owls’ first swim coach in 1985. The show will air on Thursday and Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on Bally Sports Florida.


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