FAU's Defense article
FAU's Defense article
By Ted Hutton
Posted October 8 2004
BOCA RATON – Florida Atlantic's defense salvaged the game at Middle Tennessee State as the Owls had five sacks and two interceptions in the second half and held the Blue Raiders to a field goal in the 27-20 win.
Now FAU (3-0), which did not have a sack or interception until the MTSU game, is trying to bring that same intensity into Saturday's game at Texas State (2-2).
And the key to doing that is to quit thinking.
The concept, as described by defensive lineman Yrvens Guerrier, boils down to this: "Once the play declares itself, you just got to go."
Coach Howard Schnellenberger said the defensive problems in the first half of the MTSU game, when the Blue Raiders took at 17-6 lead, were directly related to the mind, where too much thought was blocking out the instincts that make the difference between an interception and completion.
The solution is in how the team practices, Schnellenberger said, especially with a three-week gap between FAU's last game and Saturday's.
"I keep telling them to go ahead and play reckless in practice so you know how far you can go," Schnellenberger said. "The time to not make the play is in practice, where it won't kill you."
FAU's opponents are averaging 70 yards rushing and 277 passing per game, and MTSU had 195 yards passing in the first half before the defense clamped down.
FAU defensive back Willie Hughley, who had two interceptions against MTSU, said the defense was too tense in the first half and that allowed the Blue Raiders to complete some long passes that led to scores.
Compounding that was lack of a pass rush as the defensive line and linebackers were playing conservatively.
"We might have been trying not to mess up instead of just playing and messing up on the fly," linebacker Chris Laskowski said. "When you play full speed and fly around you can make mistakes and cover them up."
In the second half Laskowski had three sacks as the defense went on the attack and put constant pressure on MTSU's quarterbacks, which helped create the interceptions.
Getting those sacks and interceptions has helped the defense practice this week with the speed and recklessness Schnellenberger has been seeking and what Texas State is expecting.
"Their defense is very confident and plays with passion every snap," Bobcats coach David Bailiff said.
FAU's defense will need to stay aggressive, since Schnellenberger said the Bobcats will try and play a possession game to keep the ball away from the Owls' offense.
"I don't expect them to throw as much and I think we'll see a lot of option and power football," Schnellenberger said. "I think they will try and do that more than get in a scoring battle with us."
While FAU created its first three turnovers of the season against MTSU, the Owls were putting up another important first when they did not turn the ball over themselves.
FAU had four turnovers coming into the game, on three interceptions and a fumble.
"We have to continue to protect the ball," said quarterback Jared Allen, who is responsible for three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble).
Texas State has eight turnovers on the season and has created 11 turnovers.
Copyright ? 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel