Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic athletics

After four weeks of question marks regarding their 2020 season, the Florida Atlantic Owls are hoping that the fifth time is the charm.

The Owls have seen their first four games of the season either canceled or postponed for some reason related to COVID-19. Their first two games – away at Minnesota and home against Stoney Brook – were canceled before the season began after both the Big Ten and Colonial Athletic Association canceled their seasons.

Following positive COVID-19 tests that would have left FAU down around 25 players, the Owls’ game at Georgia Southern was postponed. The following week, concerns about the coronavirus at South Florida postponed the contest between the schools.

These bumps in the road are not a shock to FAU or any other program. Schools knew the possibility of game’s being canceled or postponed before the beginning of the season. Entering Week 4, a total of 22 games have been canceled or postponed across the country. 

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For head coach Willie Taggart, the key has remained to communicate with his players, who have handled the situation well.

“Our guys have really handled all of this really well. I’ve been impressed with how they’ve handled it,” said Taggart. “I think communicating with them early, when it all started and telling them how there’s going to hiccups, there’s going to be sudden changes.”

That, however, hasn’t removed the frustration from the situation. While some programs have played four games, the Owls have been relegated to the sidelines. 

“It’s frustrating because our guys want to play. I’m ready to see our team play and see what we have out there on the football field,” said Taggart. “It’s like we’ve been in spring practice for two months. … Keeping our fingers crossed hoping the football gods this week and let us have us a home game.”

Opening with C-USA play

The Owls are hoping their first game will be this Saturday, where a scheduled match-up between Charlotte awaits. Not only will a game against Charlotte be the team’s season opener but also their first chance to defend the Conference USA title.

“We got a chance to go out there and defend our championship,” Taggart explained. “Our guys are excited about doing that and knowing that’s going to be a challenge and knowing that we got the bullseye on our back.”

For that reason, Taggart won’t be making any excuses about the season or the situation.

“That’s why we can’t make any excuses about anything that’s going on,” acknowledged Taggart, the situation not eluding the new head coach. “We gotta work every single day to make sure that we put ourselves in the best position to defend our championship. I really think that’s what’s helping our guys. Every week, coming out here ready to practice. They take pride in what they created around here.”

Despite the stakes featured, Taggart hasn’t lost a sense of humor with the situation. Taggart noted that the Owls are still undefeated on the season, having not lost a game to this point.

In the conference, most schools who were set to participate in football have begun playing. Only Rice and FAU have yet to play, while Old Dominion chose not to participate in fall sports. Rice, who has had a total of six games canceled or postponed, is not slated to play until late October. Rice currently has just six games on their schedule, while FAU is scheduled to play seven games.