Florida Atlantic (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) falls to 0-3 on the road with a 31-14 short against UAB (4-2, 2-1 C-USA.) They have now lost their last five road games, dating back to their Nov. 13, 2020, Shula Bowl win over FIU, and are now 1-6 on the road under head coach Willie Taggart.
Adversity struck from the moment the Owls first had the ball. After the defense gave up a 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a Dylan Hopkins pass to Samario Rudolph, quarterback N'Kosi Perry threw an interception on FAU's first offensive play from scrimmage. The defense would hold the Blazers to just five yards on the ensuing drive, which cornerback Zyon Gilbert capped off with a blocked field goal.
The momentum from that play wouldn't last long, as Perry fumbled the ball off of an exchange with running back Johnny Ford with the offensive line collapsing around him. The fumble was picked up by the defense at FAU's 15-yard line. Two plays later, Hopkins struck again with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Trea Shropshire to put the Blazers up 14-0.
FAU's offense was able to bounce back the following drive, with an 11 play, 90-yard drive capped off with a Perry rushing touchdown to cut the lead in half. After a defensive stop, Perry would strike again with a two-yard touchdown pass to LaJohntay Wester on a crucial fourth-down play to tie the game at 14. UAB would answer back with a field goal, which FAU followed up with a nine-play, 66-yard drive. That drive ended with a pick-six in the end zone that put UAB up 24-14 at the half.
FAU had an opportunity to make it a one-score game during the first drive of the second half, but Aaron Shahriari missed a 44-yard field goal. The Blazers would hold the Owls scoreless for the entire second half, scoring one more touchdown to secure a 31-14 win. Perry would leave the game in the second half because he was "banged up" according to Coach Taggart. The prognosis was a knee issue and stitches from his throwing hand opening up. He finished the game 16-25 with 193 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions.
The Owls stayed in the battle yardage-wise, with UAB outgaining them 306-291. FAU had contributions from running back Larry McCammon [photo], who had 43 receiving yards on two receptions. Linebacker Akileis Leroy led the Owls in tackles for the second straight game, notching seven total tackles and adding a QB hurry.
Here are our team's takeaways from Saturday's game:
- Lost In The Trenches - FAU's line play was, once again, not strong enough to give the Owls the win on the road. Behind the offensive line, the Florida Atlantic only managed to pick up 43 total yards on the ground, averaging 1.1 yards per carry as a team. They also gave up eight sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, and four QB hurries. Meanwhile, the defense only managed one sack, five tackles for a loss, and two QB Hurries, giving the UAB offense enough time to put up 306 yards of total offense.
- Perry Wasn't Himself - For the first time all season, quarterback N'Kosi Perry made multiple bad reads that cost the Owls the game. The pick-six at the end of the second quarter was the worst of his reads, where he threw the ball to T.J. Chase, who fell down in the middle of the route, in double coverage. Grayson Cash went untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. He finished the game 16-25 (64%), throwing for 193 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions.
- Missed Field Goal Shuts Door In The Second Half - The Owls started the second half with a nine-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal. If Sharhiari would've converted the kick, it would've been a seven-point game. From that point on, the momentum swung UAB's way the rest of the game, with Perry throwing an interception on the very next drive and three three-and-outs on the next five drives after that. This marks the second road game in a row that the Owls were shut out in the second half.
- Sweet Home Alabama - Zyon Gilbert had a solid outing in his return home to the Jazzie State. The Montgomery native nearly picked a pass off inside the 20 during a late 1st quarter drive by UAB, then followed that up with a critical sack on a 3rd and 15 Blazer situation. Overall he finished with 6 tackles (5 solo), a sack, 2 tackles for loss, and a pass break up to lead the Owls' secondary.
- Blazing the Trail for Scores - FAU giving the ball away on the first two possessions was obviously not the start everyone had hoped for. The Owls' blocked field goal after the first looked to be a sign of forgiveness, only to see a live rock on the ground ripe for a UAB pick-up on the very next play and an eventual touchdown. Later in a 1st and goal situation for the Owls, UAB blazed a 100-yard trail to the end zone on the second N'Kosi Perry interception making it 14 points allowed off turnovers. FAU had allowed only seven all year coming into the game.
- Grounded - Coming into the contest, FAU had amassed 194.4 yards per contest in the running game. That figure would be missed on Saturday, as UAB packed the box, and held the normally productive FAU core of backs to just 52 yards off of 32 carries (1.2 YPC). Two rushes by N'Kosi Perry and Javion Posey, which combined for 26 yards, accounted for exactly half of the total production.
Given a needed bye week ahead, the team will be afforded some ample time off. This is just what the doctor ordered given the need for Perry to heal his hand, and other players to shore up some knicks and bruises they are also dealing with. They'll need it, as another road game lies ahead - this time on an off-cycle Thursday night in Charlotte.