FAU braces for Memphis’ passing attack in Montgomery Bowl
Florida Atlantic senior cornerback Zyon Gilbert, a native of Montgomery, Ala., will be back home on Wednesday night, but visiting his family won’t be his primary objective.
Gilbert will lead the Owls (5-3) against the Memphis Tigers (7-3) in the inaugural Montgomery Bowl. Memphis, based on its stellar pass offense, is a 10-point favorite.
Gilbert is one of two Owls considered prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft, and he is joined in that regard by senior defensive end Leighton McCarthy, who leads FAU with 12.5 tackles for loss and ranks fifth nationally with 1.12 sacks per game (nine total).
Gilbert is tied for the team lead with four passes defensed.
“I grew up an Alabama fan,” said Gilbert, who was an all-state defensive back at Jefferson Davis High. “Once you pick (Alabama over Auburn), you don’t switch.”
Gilbert hopes to impress the home fans while leading an Owls program that is 4-0 in bowl games. One of those wins came in 2007, when the Owls beat Memphis 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl.
That was the first bowl game in Owls history, and it is the only previous meeting between Memphis and FAU.
Memphis will set a school record by playing in a bowl game for the seventh straight year. The Tigers are 5-8 in their bowl history, with 12 of their 13 appearances coming since 2003. But the Tigers have not won a bowl game since beating Brigham Young 55-48 in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl.
“Our guys are excited about the opportunity to win a bowl game for the first time in a long time,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said.
Memphis’ biggest stars are senior quarterback Brady White and junior wide receiver Calvin Austin III.
White holds Memphis records for career passing yards (10,406), touchdown passes (87) and wins (27).
Austin, a Memphis native, is tied for fifth in the FBS with 10 touchdown grabs and is ninth in receiving yards (1,025). Austin also set a school record with five straight 100-yard games, and he is one of 10 athletes up for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to a player who started his career as a walk-on.
Austin, assuming a nagging leg injury won’t keep him out of the bowl game, is set to face an FAU defense that ranks ninth nationally in points allowed (16.5 per game) and 17th in sacks (3.12 per game). FAU’s defense had been third nationally in fewest points allowed before a 45-31 loss to Southern Miss on Dec. 10.
In that game, FAU’s offensive leaders were quarterback Nick Tronti (162 passing yards, one TD, one interception), running back James Charles (79 rushing yards, two TDs) and receiver Brandon Robinson (five catches, 72 yards, one TD).
For Memphis, other players to watch include defensive linemen O’Bryan Goodson and Morris Joseph, defensive back Quindell Johnson, and senior tight end Sean Dykes, who set a school record with 1,169 career receiving yards at his position.
On special teams, watch for Memphis kicker Riley Patterson, who ranks second in school history in points (427) and field-goal percentage (77.8). His most recent kick was a 47-yarder as time expired to beat Houston 30-27 on Dec. 12. Patterson has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl next month.
–Field Level Media