Rain came down on the Tom Oxley Fields on Wednesday morning, but the Florida Atlantic football team pushed on to conclude their session, taking advantage of the extra time they have with the bye week until their matchup with Tulsa on October 7th.
Defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni (pictured right) made himself available to media following the session. He said he is happy with how hard the defense is playing with the four games they have under their belt.
"We played pretty well against Illinois, but the good news is we can play a lot better. We have a lot of things we have to clean up; gave up too many explosive plays and four of them led to all 23 of their points," Bellantoni said reflecting on the team defense despite a 1-3 start to the season.
"That's kind of the message this week; it's about the improvement on the little things, the little things that caused us issues in the first four games, so we're trying to get there."
Here are some notes from today's media observation period.
OwlBytes for September 27th
Defensive Strengths Bellantoni noted that stopping the run has been a key strength for the defense so far this season. "We've been pretty darn good there. I don't know about yards per gain and all that but efficiency-wise, we've been pretty efficient. Our pass rush picked up in the last game, and I was happy about that," he said.
"We were pretty stingy, like you earn everything you get. So again, if we can clean up the little things, we have a chance to be pretty damn good," he said. Safety Darius McClendon (pictured below) agreed with Bellantoni's sentiments, saying they are getting better every day as a collective group. "Building the trust within each unit…then all of us coming together, I feel like we are going to make a big impact this upcoming week," McClendon said.
Room For Improvement Getting a season-high four sacks against Illinois, Bellantoni hopes to maintain that level of defense once FAU heads into conference play. "That's a focus that we have every week with pressuring the quarterback…we were getting the guy off his spot, we were making him throw the ball away early, but we weren't getting home with sacks as much as we'd like. So it was nice to see it happen the other day," he said.
"If we can continue to show up and continue to get better at our pass rush plan, our moves, the moves that we're good at…then we have a chance to do that. Maybe not four a week, but you're hoping that you can be more consistent."
Rookie Duty Making some of their preparations for Tulsa, one of FAU's rookie quarterbacks had the responsibility of scouting Tulsa's starting quarterback. Luke Rucker had his role of observing Cardell Williams, giving the Owl defense ideas to limit the production of the Golden Hurricane. As a redshirt freshman, Williams completed 38 of his 65 passes for 596 yards and five touchdowns but has thrown five interceptions in four games this season.
Final Word FAU has showcased confidence in their ability to be successful when they begin conference play. Withstanding the strong talent they have faced the last two games against Clemson and Illinois have developed them to be battle-tested for what their opponents in the American Athletic Conference have in store for them. The defense has had several moments of brilliance so far throughout the campaign, and as long as they make the right adjustments to correct the errors from the past few contests, they could be bound for dominance starting next week.
Defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni and safety Darius McClendon headline today's Coach's Corner.
The Owls will return to the Schmidt Complex practice field on Thursday morning to continue their time in the bye week.