The Owls lost Friday night, but that doesn't mean there wasn’t some things to take away from the game. Carl Pelini used three different quarterbacks, as FAU searched for an identity in the huddle. The defense couldn’t contain Heisman contender Duke Johnson, and gave up too many big plays in the 34-6 loss.
Here’s our notes from press box:
The Three QBs
It was a gimmicky-rotation that never found a form of consistency. Pelini elected to start Jaquez Johnson in favor of Greg Hankerson, and the duo split time against Miami along with the occasional spell from athlete DJ Juste.
“We wanted to start out with Quez (Jaquez), who’s a little older and more experienced and can maybe handle the pressure a little bit better and then bring Greg in on the second series. That was kind of the plan all along and then to see who had the hot hand,” Pelini explained.
Johnson nearly threw an interception on his first series, and it was Hankerson who had a mixed showing in the first half. The freshman was able to move the chains with his feet, but often let the pocket collapse before an injury sidelined him.
“I thought the injury to Greg changed the game plan a little bit,” Pelini said. “We weren’t executing great offensively and we never really got a hot hand.”
FAU used Johnson primarily in the second half, but a question mark remains next to the quarterback position.
Hankerson left the game in the second quarter and never returned. He was spotted on the sidelines with ice around his mid-torso section and according to Pelini, he was given treatment in the locker room at halftime.
“He feel on the ball during one of his runs –– he just landed on the ball. It was mostly just the wind knocked out of him, but we did an x-ray and it was negative,” Pelini said.
The quarterback was the only notable in-game injury, as a handful of other key players didn’t see the field. Nickelback Cre’von LeBlanc (ribs) participated in warm-ups before turning in the pads, while defensive Martin Wright (knee) played just one series. Safety Winfred Strickland was also a scratch.
FAU played without two starters, as Pelini suspended five players for a violation of team rules before the game. Wide receiver Daniel McKinney, tight end Darion Howard, running back Damian Fortner, defensive tackle Lance Burlingame and long snapper Stephen Curtis all didn’t travel with the team.
McKinney was the team’s second leading receiver last season, while Howard figured to see meaningful snaps on offense.
“The decision was made in the last 48 hours,” Pelini said Friday. “That’s really all I’m going to say about it right now. The further decision as far as when they’ll return will be made this weekend.”
The suspension of two starters was a first for Pelini during his tenure at FAU. Burlingame and Curtis were both listed as backups, while Fortner spent the past week mocking the Hurricanes’ Duke Johnson on the scout team.
MG3 at WR
Melvin German led the Owl’s offense with three catches for 34 yards. The quarterback-turned-wide receiver didn’t see action until the second quarter, but his presence was quickly felt. He caught a 15-yard pass over the middle, and showed his ability to be a large target in the passing game.
On the team’s final drive he hauled in two first downs, which earned praise from Pelini.
“Melvin is a natural talent at wide receiver, he could be really good for us. He’s still learning the finer points of being a receiver, but he’s going to keep getting better and better every week,” Pelini said.
In what has quickly become an internet sensation, Jaquez Johnson claimed that it was his decision to spike the ball on 4th down with a few seconds left in the game.
“We had a play called and coach said when we get a first down to just clock it. I stepped up in the pocket and tried to get the first down and made a bad mistake that you can’t make as a quarterback,” Johnson said.
ESPNU’s broadcast showed Pelini signaling for a spike from the sidelines, but Johnson is taking responsibility.
By the Numbers
61 - Sean Kelly picked up right where he left off from last season. The sophomore punter bombed a 61-yard punt and averaged 41.5 yards per attempt. He also downed four punts inside the Hurricane’s 20-yard line.
19 - Hankerson’s 19-yard scramble in the first half was the Owl’s longest play from scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Brian Wright wanted big plays, but the team couldn’t produce.
6 - That’s the number of days until FAU faces East Carolina in their Conference-USA opener. Pelini said he kept things pretty “vanilla” against Miami, with the hopes of opening things up next Thursday.
4 - The Owls had four different players rush for 20 yards or more. Jonathan Wallace paced the team with 34 yards but it was the three quarterbacks who moved the ball in-between the tackles. Johnson ran for 30 yards while Juste added 28 yards and Hankerson gained 22 before his injury.