Florida Atlantic came into Saturday night’s game knowing that they couldn’t give up big plays and needed to find a way to stop them.
However, South Florida (3-1) managed nine plays of ten yards or more in a 31-3 win at Raymond James Stadium, scoring 14 of those points off of turnovers and adding another score on a blocked punt.
“The impact of the big plays are terrible,” said Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger after the game.
Things didn’t start off well for FAU as quarterback Jeff Van Camp was intercepted on the opening drive of the night by USF's Jerrell Young. The throw wasn’t the problem, but rather tight end Rob Housler's deflecting the ball in the air. Bulls' running back Mo Plancher responded five plays later with a five-yard touchdown run to give South Florida an early 7-0 lead.
Van Camp couldn’t settle in the pocket once the Owls got back on offense, getting sacked twice in the first quarter and having to scramble away from a Bulls' pass rush that posed a major problem for FAU's young offensive line.
He was sacked seven times throughout the night, which almost broke FAU’s all-time school record for sacks by an opponent - eight.
“It wasn’t very good,” Schnellenberger said of the line. “This (USF) team brought a lot of heat that other teams haven’t been bringing.”
Later in the half, punter Mickey Groody saw his attempt blocked at FAU’s own 25-yard line while USF scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a two touchdown advantage.
After a missed field goal by USF, Van Camp drove the offense down the field but FAU had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from kicker Ross Gornall.
Florida Atlantic (1-3) had the ball for over twenty minutes in the first half, leading in almost every statistical category, but only had three points to show for it at the break trailing 14-3.
The second half got off to a rocky start as well when the opening kickoff was returned 36-yards by Lamar Lindsey to give the Bulls good field position. Two plays later B.J. Daniels found Dontavia Bogan for a 38-yard touchdown strike. Daniels finished the day 14-of-19 for 155 yards and a touchdown, adding 27 more yards on the ground.
“We tried to contain him from running so much, so he passed a lot more than he did in the past,” said FAU defensive tackle Dino Cox.
Daniels went back to work on the next drive, anchoring a 13 play drive that was capped off by a 46-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 24-3.
Van Camp did all that he could to help bring the Owls back into the game by formulating a drive late in the third quarter, but that possession was halted by another turnover when he was hit by Sam Barrington in the backfield knocking the ball loose and placing Van Camp on the sideline with a neck injury in the process.
"I feel fine, just got my bell rung a little bit. They're a pretty physical team.” Van Camp said of the hit.
The Bulls took advantage of the fumble and capitalized with another Plancher touchdown run, extending the lead to 31-3.
Graham Wilbert took over Owl offense in the fourth quarter, leading the Owls to the USF 15-yard line behind a 49-yard run from Willie Floyd down the sideline. However, Wilbert was intercepted by USF linebacker Michael Lanaris inside the 10-yard line with 9:54 left in the game.
The Bulls inserted parts of their second team offense and chewed out the clock to secure the win.
“We didn’t execute once again. Back to the drawing board,” FAU linebacker Malik Eugene said.