Florida Atlantic falls to 0-2 on the road this season, losing 31-7 to Air Force. After allowing just 29 rushing yards to Fordham, the Owls were unable to translate that success against Air Force's high-powered triple-option offense, giving up 401 rushing yards to the Falcons. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels toyed with FAU on the ground, rushing for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, including a 94-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter.
This is the second time the Owls gave up more than 446 yards on the ground this season, as they allowed 400 yards when they made the trip to Gainesville to face off with the Gators in Week 1.
Air Force started the game with 24 unanswered points, with Daniels opening the game with a four-yard touchdown rush before his 94-yarder with 5:35 to go in the first quarter. The Owls went scoreless for their third first quarter in four weeks, as they wouldn't score until N'Kosi Perry broke for a 34 yard rush with 3:42 to go in the first half. After a missed field goal to end the half, the Owls had some hope going into the second half, but a slow start offensively and a Micah Davis touchdown restored Air Force's 24 point lead with 3:30 to go in the third quarter. Quarterback N'Kosi Perry's run of touchdowns without an interception ended at seven, as he was picked off by Air Force safety Corvan Taylor with 4:24 to go in the game. His 167 attempts without an interception was the fifth-longest active streak in the FBS.
Safety Jordan Helm [photo] led FAU in tackles with 15 on the game. He did a good job in limiting the big plays that went past the front of the Owls' defense and brought the physicality with some big hits. Cornerbacks Diashun Moss and Korel Smith also joined in on the tackle party with seven a-piece. Most of the tackles came from the secondary, as Air Force's rushing attack did a great job at powering through FAU's front seven.
Here are the Owl's Nest Team's Takeaways from the game:
- Making Hay - Through the first three games, punter Matt Hayball saw a total of 13 boots (4.3 per contest) with five of those were against Florida. His leg unexpectedly got a bit more work Saturday, as he needed to trot out six times against the Falcons. He continued to show solid performance though, matching his average of 44 YPP while netting four inside the redzone.
- Payday With No Cash In - The Owls received $200K for their weekend in Colorado. However, losing will likely have a negative return towards garnering any intangible interest from the American Conference - who are possibly still deciding who will get their invitation nods. Meanwhile, UTSA - who is also in contention - set down Memphis in a six point underdog effort. Of note, FAU paid the Falcons for losing in Boca Raton in 2018 as well - the same $200K figure.
- Stuck In First Gear - The Owls continued their season trend with another slow start, but this time could not find 2nd, 3rd, or 4th gear down the line on either side of the ball to get stops, catch up, or pull away. Against Florida, they were able to make it respectable. However, on Saturday, some of the in game adjustments carried out in the first three games were lacking. The seven points registered by the FAU offense establish a new season low, and becomes the second lowest output since the 20-3 loss to Georgia Southern last season.
- Third Down's The Charm - Ironically, FAU performed better overall in third downs in the loss than they have against their seasonal average versus FBS competition. Coming into the contest against the Falcons, Florida Atlantic were allowing opponents therein to convert at a 54% success rate. On Saturday Air Force managed only a 3-of-14 showing (33%), which does say something overall. Casting a shadow on this ray of light however, was the performance on fourth downs, where they converted 4-of-6 attempts and left the Owls deflated by drive extensions.
- Battle in the Trenches - Yet another week where the Owls defense was unable to generate any sort of push on the line. Granted, the style of blocks used by triple option teams can make that difficult, but that does not excuse the offensive line looking like Swiss cheese.
- Altitude Sickness - Owls have yet to win a game outdoors in an altitude above 6,000 feet. While FAUís massive 2003 victory over Northern Arizona was above that level, it was played inside of a dome.
- Flip the Script - FAUís game-plan utilized quick hits along the flats to provide one-on-one opportunities for our speedy receivers. Those plans had to be tossed out the window as FAU was forced to throw downfield, without much success, after Air Force made it 21-0 early.
- Lost In The Trenches - The Owls weren't able to get anything going on either side of the ball for one huge reason: Air Force won the physical battle. FAU's defensive line predicates their game on speed, but when they're going against an offensive line that is physical and big, they're not able to break through and use that speed to their advantage. The Falcons simply have stronger players in the trenches than the Owls, and it showed on their dive plays. Even if they saw it coming, their fullbacks were still able to break through and pick up the yards they needed. The Owls' offensive line was also not able to contain Air Force's defense. Perry wasn't able to get much going in the passing game because the Falcons' defensive line was all over him. Perry only went 11-33 from the air with 78 yards an interception.
- Too Many Drops - Another huge contributor to Perry's stat line was the drops from his receivers. In the first drive alone tight end John Mitchell had two crucial drops that contributed to FAU's slow start offensively. The Air Force secondary also did a great job in neutralizing the Owls' receiving attack, notching six bass breakups on the night.
- Eyes On The Quarterback - In the first quarter especially, the Owls were not keeping their eyes on the quarterback, and it costed them. They gave up 201 yards on the ground in that quarter and a lot of it was because they weren't doing a good job of getting that designated QB spy on Daniels. It was especially apparent on that 94-yard touchdown rush, when he went virtually untouched through the teeth of the Owls' defense.
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