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Owls suffer 48-14 mauling at Clemson

The Florida Atlantic football team got torn apart in a 48-14 mauling against the Clemson Tigers on Saturday night at the Death Valley of Memorial Field, falling to 1-2 as a result. Their first win against an ACC team will have to wait, having been unsuccessful in five attempts including this game.

Entering the game as 24-point underdogs, the Owls entered the stadium with a lot of confidence. This propelled them to dance on the Clemson logo at the center of the field during pregame warmups, drawing plenty of boos from Tiger fans.

Unfortunately for the Owls, things went downhill from there as quarterback Casey Thompson threw an interception which the Tigers returned for a 46-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the first quarter. As FAU failed to respond with their next couple of drives, Clemson took advantage with quarterback Cade Klubnik firing a 30-yard touchdown to Tyler Brown and a seven-yard touchdown to Jake Briningstool to make the score 20-0 after the first quarter.

"Obviously shorthanded a little bit from a talent standpoint. You know you got to come out and start fast, and to throw a pick-six on the first drive, it certainly took the wind out of ourselves," head coach Tom Herman said.

As Clemson continued running up the score by adding a pair of touchdowns throughout the second quarter, the Owls couldn't muster up any opportunities at the offensive end. Thompson was at the center of those struggles, throwing two interceptions in the prior quarter as some of his passes were thrown into coverage from an active Tiger defense.

Thompson's night would eventually be done, sustaining a knee injury following a roughing the passer penalty from Clemson's Cade Denhoff as team staff carried him off the field. Daniel Richardson mainly took his place for the remainder of the contest.

"It was obviously significant enough for him not to return to the game, but it would be premature without getting an MRI to really comment on it," Herman.

Going scoreless in the third quarter as Clemson added another touchdown to their tally, the Owls finally gained some rhythm in the fourth quarter despite their struggles. Michael Johnson Jr., who was unable to play for FAU the past two seasons due to injury, played his first-ever snaps as an Owl and rushed for two yards into the end zone to get the Owls on the board.

Conceding another touchdown from Clemson with eight minutes remaining, FAU ended the night with an astounding trick play. Wide receiver Javion Posey played quarterback and threw a marvelous 33-yard pass to fellow receiver Devin Price to score the final touchdown in the final minutes of the game.

Aside from Thompson, FAU's running back unit was also banged up by the end of it. Herman said Zuberi Mobley suffered an injury to his shoulder while leading rusher Larry McCammon III did not take part in the game due to an ankle injury.

"[Larry] wanted to play through it. Our plan all along was not to use him tonight to hopefully get his ankle healed and ready to go, if not this week, then certainly for when we start conference play," Herman said. Kobe Lewis also was limping near the end of the game, but Herman did not have a status update on him.

Wide receiver Lajohntay Wester was among the few bright spots for the Owls' offense. He finished with a new season-high in receiving yards with 108, making this the sixth time (second this season) in his career that he reached 100 yards or more in a game. He also became FAU's all-time leader in receptions made with his 163rd catch. He is at 174 and counting.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Jackson Ambush and safeties Dwight Toombs II and Jarron Morris (pictured) displayed solid performances. Ambush led the team in tackles with eight (four solo), Toombs II finished with seven tackles (four solo), and Morris broke up two passes to add onto the six tackles he made throughout the night.

Herman challenged his coaching staff after the game to grade the second half harder than they graded any half of football in their lifetimes.

"That is where a young man's true colors really shine in times like that, and for the most part, I was really happy watching from the sideline. But we've still got a few guys that we've got to either convert into doing it our way, or we've got to move on," Herman said.

"I know the scoreboard is awful and the way we looked for a lot of the first half was awful and our guys responded for the most part. We are going to really do a good job of accentuating and promoting the guys that upheld our standard and our culture regardless of the scoreboard and also make sure we point out the guys that did not."

The Owls continue their adventure on the road, heading up north to Illinois to face the Fighting Illini on September 23rd at 3:30 PM in the city of Champaign. Illinois is coming off a 30-13 defeat against nationally-ranked Penn State.

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