The Owls took their 2016 season opener at FAU Stadium, defeating Southern Illinois on Saturday night, 38-30. It was the first season opening victory since a 7-3 win over Wagner in 2012. And like that previous achievement, the signal caller played a key role.
Quarterback Jason Driskel (photo) accounted for over 300 yards of total offense, and was an extremely efficient 14-of-16 passing in the second half. All told, the redshirt sophomore was 23-of-31 for 287 yards in the air and added 41 yards rushing.
Running back “Buddy” Gregory Howell, Jr. wasted no time getting the Owls on the scoreboard, with a 48-yard touchdown on FAU’s second offensive play of the game.
SIU (0-1) scored just before halftime to take a 24-21 lead into the locker room, but FAU (1-0) had the ball first out of the break, and a 12-play, 75-yard drive culminated in tight end Tyler Cameron’s first career receiving touchdown to give the team a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.
The Owls would put up 17 unanswered points in the second half before the Salukis scored on a tipped pass into the end zone with just 2:41 remaining for the game's final points.
The Salukis had a chance to tie the game later, but Aaron Stanton lost a fumble trying to gain yards after the catch. FAU then ran out the clock to preserve the win.
“We’re excited to be 1-0; very excited to accomplish our second mission,” said head coach Charlie Partridge. “Our first mission being summer camp, our second mission being the Southern Illinois game, and we accomplished that. There’s a lot of things coming out of the game that I’m very excited about, starting with our offense."
Defensively, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair picked up where he left off from his All-American freshman campaign, leading the Owls with 10 tackles on the day. Defensive lineman Haiden Nagel and defensive back Jalen Young each added eight stops. Nagel's mark was a career high.
Florida Atlantic will head south next weekend for a battle against Miami. The Hurricanes defeated Florida A&M on Saturday in Mark Richt’s first game as head coach, 70-3.
"The Owls are 1-0, and we start our next mission tomorrow", said Partridge.