The Florida Atlantic football team allowed 29 unanswered points in a 36-10 defeat to the UTSA Roadrunners on Saturday evening at Howard Schnellenberger Field.
With the loss, their overall record falls to 3-4 and sees their hold at the top of the conference standings vanish with a 2-1 showing in AAC play so far. They are currently tied with Memphis and Rice for fourth place behind Tulane, SMU, and UTSA.
"Hats off to Coach Traylor and his crew. That's a well-oiled offense. You can tell that team has been building something for the last four years and they came out and out-coached us, they outplayed us, they out-physicaled us, and they out-everything'd us," head coach Tom Herman said.
FAU did get off to a great start, especially from the defense. After kicker Logan Lupo got the Owls on the board with a 37-yard field goal, the Owls made two interceptions from defensive back Daedae Hill and defensive lineman Latrell Jean (pictured top via Bob Markey II).
The second interception, in particular, was created from a deflection from defensive end Chris Jones as Jean made the interception and ran for 11 yards into the end zone to score the touchdown. It was the first time a defensive lineman picked off an opposing quarterback since Trevon Coley did it back in 2014.
"Big guys don't ever really get that opportunity so when you do get the opportunity, it's fun. It's sad that we didn't get the outcome we wanted, but yeah, when a big guy gets the opportunity, it's definitely exciting," Jean said.
Then things started to go downhill for the Owls. UTSA scored 13 unanswered points to lead by 10 at the break, as FAU struggled to break through the fierce Roadrunner defense.
Star receiver Lajohntay Wester sustained the brunt of that defense, being limited to two catches for seven yards at halftime (four total for 14 yards) as the Roadrunners relentlessly pestered him on his routes.
UTSA continued their momentum in the third quarter as the FAU offense kept struggling to find opportunities. The Roadrunners found a 42-yard score that quarterback Frank Harris created for receiver Tykee Ogle-Kellogg to grow their lead to 17 and frustrate the Owls even further.
Adding insult to injury, FAU conceded a safety to trail by 19 heading into the fourth quarter. The last time they allowed one was in 2021 when Old Dominion scored two safeties on them.
The last defensive highlight for FAU happened early in the period when linebacker Jaylen Wester forced a fumble as linebacker Xavier Peters recovered the ball. However, the Owls were unable to make anything out of it from the offensive end as the Roadrunners were in cruise control for the remainder of the contest.
Even though FAU was more disciplined than UTSA, winning the penalty battle 8-3, they only conjured up 10 first downs in contrast to the Roadrunners' 27. The Owls also struggled on third-down conversions going 6-16 in those situations while UTSA went 7-16 and scored in the red zone for all five of their attempts.
"We got to get off the field on third down so that probably was the biggest frustration of the game. We kept letting them drive down the field on us. We got to fix that," Jean said.
The FAU offense was the complete opposite of how they performed against USF. They went from producing 587 total yards against the Bulls to just 162 against the Roadrunners' defense.
"I thought we had a little momentum, but turnovers can kill you. They won the turnover battle and they just kept getting the ball and making plays. Next week, we just got to come back to the drawing board and make plays," quarterback Daniel Richardson said.
Wide receiver Je'Quan Burton (pictured above via Bob Markey II) led all receivers with 68 yards on five catches. Running back Larry McCammon III finished with 63 all-purpose yards (33 receiving and 30 rushing) on 19 touches to the ball.
Safety Amari Wansley was the highlight of the Owls' defense, leading the team in tackles for the first time this season with 12 (five solo). Safety Darius McClendon came next with 10 tackles (six solo), safety Jarron Morris finished with nine tackles (four solo), and linebacker Desmond Tisdol followed with eight (two solo).
Looking forward to next week, Herman said their next opponent is not going to care about the outcome of this game.
"At the end of the day, we've been through this before. The thing that I've seen about this team that keeps me confident is that we've responded," Herman said.
"We've taken that as a challenge or as a kick in the butt. At some point, we're going to grow up and not need that, but we're not there now and it's my job to get there as fast as we can to make sure nothing like tonight ever happens again.
The Owls won't play at Schnellenberger Field until next month as they'll have a two-game road trip, first taking on the Charlotte 49ers on October 27th at 7:30 PM which will be broadcast on ESPN2. Charlotte is coming off a gutsy 10-7 win over East Carolina, seeing their record improve to 2-5 (1-2 AAC).