There were a lot of firsts in FAU's 35-18 victory over the Arkansas State University (ASU) Red Wolves Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium.
* FAU Quarterback Jeff Van Camp made his first start in front of the home crowd. He completed 18-27-242 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also avoided a sack by scrambling from one side of the field to the other and turned it into a six yard run.
* Prior to the game, Arkansas State's defense didn't yield a 100 yard game to any individual. FAU Running back Alfred Morris changed that by rushing for 117 yards, two rushing touchdowns and also caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Van Camp giving him three touchdowns for the evening.
* The Owls win at home was their first at the venue located at the corner of Powerline and Commercial Boulevard. The game lasted 2:38 minutes and took only one hour to complete the first half. FAU improved it's record to 3-6, 3-2 while the Red Wolves dropped to 2-7, 1-4.
* Arkansas State freshman quarterback Ryan Aplin made his first start and it was impressive. He rushed for 82 yards including a 47-yard quarterback keeper on a rollout that was disguised well to the outside which led to a field goal. His 47-yard run was the longest by any ASU player this season. He also completed 20-27, 168 yards for one touchdown and zero interceptions. This touchdown occurred with 1:44 left in the game.
FAU's defense had to overcome plenty in the first half. Arkansas State amassed 200 yards in the first half, led the time of possession 20:11-9:49 and converted 4-9 on third down conversions. The Red Wolves defense limited FAU to 128 yards most of them occurring on an opening drive of 4:24 that went nine plays for 84 yards which gave the Owls a 7-0 lead.
But the Owls defensive stands limited ASU to three-first half field goals and FAU was fortunate to trail 9-7 at half-time. The final field goal of the second quarter took 17-plays-92 yards and 10:03 which basically said FAU's best defense was an inept Red Wolves offense.
FAU scored first in the second half with a 12 plays, 77 yard drive that lasted 5:41 which was capped by a Morris seven-yard touchdown run. The Owls took a 14-9 lead and the offense cruised the rest of the way by amassing 396 yards utilizing a balanced attack with 242 passing and 154 rushing yards.
The Owls received some fine efforts defensively from Marcus Bartels who had 14 tackles, David Hinds (photo) 12 plus a sack and Edward Bradwell with 10.
When the contest was over, here is what the Owls were saying.
Van Camp, “Coach went in at half-time and we really knew we had to put some points on the board and coach said we were going to run the ball as much as we could and try to get some yards on the ground. That's what happened and the offensive line played great and without them, we couldn't have had any of that offense. Thanks to the offensive line we got the win tonight. Our defense played amazing tonight. They really stepped it up this week.”
Bartels added, “We played loose today with our head on fire with our backs to the way so we had nothing to lose. It was fun, we had fun out there. We told ourselves that they were going to make plays and get down there but they can't score unless we let them. We're down there and we have all 11 people on the line and they're not going to score unless they blow us off the ball. We came to play today. That's what happened.”
Willie Rose reached the end zone once via a 10-yard pass from Van Camp, said, “I didn't realize we hadn't had a home win until Thursday. It kind of hit me hard and put a lot more emphasis of going out here and going out here going that extra step hitting that extra guy doing whatever to get that win. It felt awesome scoring that touchdown and to me it doesn't matter if I score, a receiver scores, quarterback or whoever as long as we have more points on the board at the end of the game. As a team, we're very pleased with Jeff's performance. We thought he might have been a little anxious at first whenever we knew he was going to have to come in and play but he has proved those wrong and showed the others who didn't think that that he can play. He's been doing a great job for us, poised out there is confident, runs the huddle well on the field and everybody believes in Jeff.”
When asked about the difference between Rusty Smith and Van Camp, Rose added, “Honestly, the only difference is if we are in the route and he hasn't thrown the ball yet and we have to remember our scramble rules. He's going to tuck and run and be on point with that.”
Morris who had his gridiron hat trick with touchdowns said he was pleased to play a large role in the win.
“I thankful and appreciative towards them (Offensive Line) blocking hard and coach came out today and challenged us,” Morris said. “He said they hadn't had a 100 yard rusher on them all year, the offensive line stepped up to the plate and I'm grateful.”
On the team getting it's first win, Morris added, “I'm very thankful that the true fans we do have that still come out and show their support. It was very big so hopefully we can get some more fans because they do play a part in this.”
Senior tight end Jason Harmon had four catches for 85 yards including a 52-yard touchdown pass where he had his dash to the end zone. For a guy that's recovering from a major knee operation a year ago, he looked fine Saturday night.
He said he's becoming more comfortable with his new signal caller.
“Oh definitely, we just have to work out little kinks with timing, our scramble rules but that's about it,” Harmon said.
Finally Coach Howard Schnellenberger had plenty of praise for his team after it yielded 622 yards a week ago in the Owls 56-29 loss against UAB in Birmingham, Alabama.
“It was a very satisfying win for our entire program and for all of those guys on the sideline,” Schnellenberger said. “A loss today would have put the long range possibilities out of being possibilities. I challenged the sideline and everybody around the sideline to take a more vested interest in this football team to be close to the field of play but not so close to get us a penalty to be cheering the team when they do good things and also tell them when they weren't doing wonderful things.
“It was infectious and for the first time in a long while, we had an infectious sideline before the game was over and before the conclusion had been decided. That coupled with the offense and defense committing themselves to go out and play hard every down one by one through the first, second, third and finally the fourth quarter. They were rewarded by this very good win. Several people on the defense got their very first starts and others got to play more while some played in positions they hadn't played before. It was successful. From an offensive standpoint our new leader of the offensive team, quarterback proved very quickly and very dramatically that last week wasn't a fluke (three touchdown passes, 254 yards, 24 yards rushing). It will be considered a beginners performance.
“His performance today indicates he has a great upside, had the same kind of capacity Rusty had and has shown great manhood by waiting his turn, so it was good for everybody. The kicking game wasn't perfect but it was error free.”
There was one thing that did cost the players a complete day off Sunday according to Schnellenberger.
“This was a good time to give them a reward for a game well played and a win, so we're not going to lift weights tomorrow, go out and correct mistakes, have a toilet ball,” Schnellenberger said. “We're going to come in at 1 PM and look at the tape and learn from our mistakes. We're going to learn from the good things we did.
“I was almost going to give them the whole day off tomorrow and I would have if we didn't taint the win a little bit in the last possession that they had getting the touchdown and us having terrible judgment on the unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that we got. So that's where we are and it's sure good to lengthen the potential by one week.”
One reason FAU was able to avenge last year's 28-14 loss to Arkansas State on November 22, 2008, at Jonesboro, Ark, was the Owls committed only three penalties for 30 yards, including the one 15-yarder at the end which Coach Schnellenberger alluded to.
The Red Wolves only had two penalties for 15 yards in a very clean football game.
Next up for FAU, is a 4:15 EST Road contest against the Troy Trojans in Alabama.