GAME CAPSULE: FAU @ Clemson - September 16th, 2023
Matchup: FAU (1-1, 0-0 AAC) @ Clemson (1-1, 0-0 ACC)
When: Saturday, September 16th, 8:00 PM
Where: Death Valley at Memorial Stadium
TV: ACC Network
Stream: ACC Network
Radio: FoxSports 640
Opening Line: FAU +24
Weather Forecast: Current conditions in Clemson, SC
The Series: This will be the Owls' second matchup in program history against the Tigers, the last one taking place in 2006 (54-6 Clemson). FAU is 0-4 all-time against ACC opponents.
Clemson Team Site: Here
The Owls have showcased polar opposites of themselves on both sides of the field these past two games.
While the offense dominated Monmouth in the opener, the defense were vulnerable particularly in the passing game. This past Saturday went the other way around with defenders putting up a strong fight against an Ohio offense led by star quarterback Kurtis Rourke while FAU struggled at the offensive end.
FAU now enters the Death Valley at Memorial Stadium for an intimidating matchup against Clemson, currently ranked 26th in the country according to the latest AP Top 25 poll. Luckily for them, head coach Tom Herman has experience facing ACC teams dating back to his days in Houston. Herman owns a 3-0 record against them, including wins over Louisville and Florida State.
The Owls last marched up to Clemson in 2006, where they couldn't keep up with Clemson's offense in a 54-6 beating. Notable alumni from that game include the likes of Rusty Smith, Charles Pierre, Cortez Gent, Jamari Grant, Cergile Sincere, Andre Clark, and Kris Bartels.
Eddie Williams (photo above via Bob Markey II) had a brilliant performance against Ohio's offense. Having recovered from knee surgery over the summer to be ready just in time for fall camp, the inside linebacker looked sharp as he led the team in tackles with 11 (five solo). He also tops the chart in that category with 16 while having the most assisted tackles with 10.
Morven Joseph has also come along as a significant contributor to the Owls' defense. Shaking off an injury that limited his reps against Monmouth, the outside linebacker made seven tackles (three solo) including one for a loss of three yards this past Saturday. He also shared a sack with defensive lineman Jaden Wheeler against the Bobcats.
FAU can also take in the positive that their special teams have been beneficial to begin the season. Logan Lupo cleanly converted the first field goal of his FAU career, Kobe Lewis returned three kicks for 64 yards (30 long) in his debut, and Lajohntay Wester had a 29-yard punt return to create a last-chance opportunity for the offense near the end of the game against Ohio.
The tight ends group have also begun to regain their depth with the return of Jackson Sumlin. Having been unavailable for fall camp due to injury, the Oklahoma transfer made two catches for 17 yards in his debut as an Owl. He could have a bigger role in the Owls' offense depending on their approach against Clemson.
Following the contest, FAU will continue their road trip with a stop to Champaign as they take on the Fighting Illini on September 23rd at a time to be determined.
Star Watch: WR Lajohntay Wester Despite the offense's struggles against Ohio, Wester persevered as one of the few bright spots from that performance, making 12 catches for 101 yards. With those receptions, he tied for the third-most in a game in the program's history. Taking on a Clemson defense that is only allowing 118 passing yards per game (ninth-best in the country) so far, Wester should make it a priority to maintain his efficiency as the Owls' top receiver.
Final Word In their recent games, FAU's performance on both sides of the field has exhibited stark differences. While the offense shone against Monmouth, the defense faced vulnerabilities, particularly in pass defense. Conversely, in the matchup against Ohio, the defense stood strong while the offense encountered difficulties. Now, as FAU prepares for a challenging matchup against Clemson, head coach Tom Herman's previous success against ACC teams adds a glimmer of hope.
Notable players like Eddie Williams and Morven Joseph have showcased their contributions, and the special teams have provided positive moments in the early season. The tight ends, including Jackson Sumlin, are regaining depth, which could be pivotal in their approach against Clemson. Star receiver Lajohntay Wester remains a focal point, tasked with maintaining efficiency against a formidable Clemson defense.
Key Stats Comparison
Being ranked ninth in the country and named as the preseason ACC favorites to begin their season placed a lot of expectations and championship aspirations on the Tigers. Then they walked into the Blue Devils' den and fell back down to earth.
Suffering a humiliating 28-7 loss at Duke in which they were 13-point favorites in, the Tigers got back on track with a 66-17 demolition of FCS opponent Charleston Southern.
There is a catch to their first victory, however. They trailed 14-7 near the end of the first quarter before igniting a 59-3 run for the rest of the contest to seal the deal against the Buccaneers. Despite this, it wasn't enough to keep their place in the latest AP poll, falling just outside the top 25 with a 26th ranking after this past weekend.
Clemson has two rushers that FAU needs to keep an eye on: Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. The duo has combined for a net yardage of 311 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries.
Being fast and physical with Clemson's starting quarterback Cade Klubnik would also be key for the Owls to keep the game competitive. Klubnik has thrown for 524 yards (41st most in the nation) and five touchdowns (tied-22nd) at a 68.8% completion rate.
One defensive player the Owls will have to be careful with is Jeremiah Trotter Jr. He leads the team in tackles with 13 (seven solo) including 2.5 for a loss of seven, forced a fumble, and has shown the ability to hurry the quarterback which he has done so twice.
Following this contest, the Tigers will stay at home to host Florida State on September 23rd at a time to be determined.
Star Watch: WR Beaux Collins FAU's secondary needs to stay locked in on Collins. The receiver is among the top 40 (35th) with the most receiving yards in the country so far this year, averaging 15.6 yards per catch while attaching a touchdown to his name. He led Clemson in receptions against Charleston Southern, setting a career-high with seven catches and matching his career-high with 137 receiving yards including a 69-yard touchdown that was Clemson’s longest pass play since 2020.
Final Word Clemson's rollercoaster start to the season, marked by an unexpected loss to Duke followed by a resounding win over Charleston Southern, highlights the unpredictable nature of college football. FAU faces a challenging task in containing Clemson's talented rushers, Will Shipley and Phil Mafah, and must also focus on pressuring starting quarterback Cade Klubnik.
Additionally, defensive player Jeremiah Trotter Jr. poses a significant threat to FAU's offense. As they prepare for this contest, it's crucial for FAU's secondary to closely monitor Clemson's receiver Beaux Collins, who has been a standout performer for the Tigers.