Florida Atlantic was upended by the Florida Gators in the season opening game for both teams late Saturday night. The Owls showed flashes of promise, but could not bring the total package together in order to upset the 13th nationally ranked Gators.
The hosts scored on their first two drives of the evening before an Diashun Moss interception in the endzone and a turnover-on-downs brought the end to the half.
The scoreline eventually doubled to 28-0 when the Owls' found paydirt for the first time with a two yard run up the gut from Johnny Ford.
The Gators quickly answered before the Owls scored the final touchdown of the evening with a 13 yard pass to Brandon Robinson.
All in all, the Gators outgained the Owls 553-353 yards. The majority of UF's gains came on the ground, with a season opener record 400 yards gained.
Both sides had two turnovers, with the Owls being the only ones to score from the extra fortune. FAU had two turnover-on-downs compared to one from UF.
Here are the Owl's Nest Team's takeaways from the game:
- They say football games are won and lost in the trenches and that is exactly how FAU lost this football game. The offensive line allowed NíKosi Perry to get sacked six times while the defensive line couldnít muster up a single sack. While that stat line does look concerning going forward, it is important to realize that Florida Atlantic was simply outmatched by both the size and talent that Florida has in their trenches. Still, itís important to see how that can improve going forward.
- The offense worked its best when it was working Johnny Ford (photo center) into the game as well. Heís one of the best playmakers the team has and they need to get the ball in his hands more often. The speedy running back had 52 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. He showed off his tremendous speed and even some flashes in the power running game despite his 5'5, 175-pound stature. Ford is a workhorse and he will be important in the Owls' success this season.
- Perry also looked very good in his first start with the Owls, throwing for 261 yards and a touchdown on 19/33 passing. He looked poised in the pocket and was able to make big passes even with the amount of pressure the Florida front was applying to him. The most impressive part of his game was that he didn't throw an interception, as he made some aggressive throws but was on point enough to where the Gators couldn't force any takeaways. As the season goes on, Perry will only continue to get better, and that is huge for FAU's C-USA title hopes.
- Most people are going to look at the first three quarters of play and say "that's FAU, we see this every time they get a big game." While this may be true to some degree, it's not entirely the case. The Owls went up against the best front they will face all year in that of the Gators and still managed to put up 353 yards of offense. That's not something that happened against OU, Ohio State, Clemson, and others. Last year's average was just 323 yards per outing with padding from a lopsided FIU game (461). They showed flashes of being a seriously dangerous team with Perry under center. The upgrade is evident there, and really enjoyed D'Marcus Adams performance at wide receiver. He's going to be good for us as the year progresses.
- The offensive line is clearly still developing and what we saw is likely not the lineup we will see at season's end. Defensively, you have to say to yourself "overall this team is talented." To that notion, there is a reason the over under was 52.5 points - because both teams are strong on that side of the ball. However it takes two to tango. Sure big plays were an issue, but clean those things up and you theoretically have a completely different outcome.
- Moving forward, I am both encouraged and impressed with what we have to work with. Coach Stoops' system is going to cause trouble for a considerable number of opponents when it gets to a collective simmering point, and would expect a continued uptick in turnovers as a result.
- Coach Taggart said that three takeaways was and will be the goal defensively each game this season. If Antarrius Moultrie was able to haul in his interception with nothing but green field in front of him, then the Owls would have had their three turnovers and a 14-7 scoreline midway through the third quarter. Dropped picks were a major issue that we saw too much of last season. That will need to be corrected against the high scoring offenses that litter C-USA
- On the flip side of the coin, the Owls forced two second quarter takeaways with our backs pressed against our own endzone. While the goal-line stand was impressive, the interception was more of a poor choice from UF's Emory Jones than an impressive defensive play. Without those defensive stands, the Owls are looking at a 28-0 halftime deficit.
- Despite the constant pressure in the backfield, Perry did well to prevent turnovers. The strip-sack couldn't be prevented as a blown blocking assignment made him a sitting duck. Meanwhile, FAU couldn't seem to get out of our own way with the Posey centered gadget plays. I don't want this to be the end of the Posey wildcat formation project as I look forward to see it against a defensive closer to FAU's level
- This isn't talked about enough, but the time management towards the end of the first half was poor. While the strange intentional grounding call didn't help our cause, one play took 20 seconds to snap as the clock hit the minute mark. Wasted time like that is what could make the difference in close contests vs. UAB and Marshall later this season.
The Owls will return home to Paradise to face Georgia Southern. The Golden Eagles beat Gardner Webb 30-25 Saturday night thanks to a 178 yard rushing day from Logan Wright.
FAU lost to Georgia Southern 20-3 in a COVID postponed game in Statesboro last season, despite the Owls playing as the better team.
Chase Lasater is expected to return for the Owls for next weekend's tilt against the option running threat of the Golden Eagles, and offensive lineman Andrew Boselli is possible.
BOX SCORE: FAU vs Florida
GAME THREAD: FAU vs Florida
Fearless Predictions FAU vs Florida
Postgame Presser - Willie Taggart