Despite a shaky start, Florida Atlantic dismantled Georgia Southern 38-6 in the first FAU home game since the passing of Owls' Coach Howard Schnellenberger.
The Eagles opened the scoring with a methodical 95-yard drive typical to an option-based team. Misdirection runs and multiple third down conversions looked to spell doom for an FAU defense that could not get off the field. It was not until a Jordan Helm fumble recovery midway through the second did the Owls look threatening.
FAU's N'Kosi Perry threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single turnover. He found John Mitchell twice for the converted tight end's first score since 2019, as well as LaJohntay Wester for a controversial touchdown.
The most impressive touchdown came from a 50-yard bomb, perfectly placed for a Je'Quan Burton in full stride at the goal-line.
The Owls scored 38 unanswered points, all of which coming in the final 32 minutes of game-time.
FAU's win continues the Owls' impressive winning streak to nine games at Howard Schnellenberger Field, a record stretching from November of 2019.
Here are the Owl's Nest Team Takeaways from the game:
- The Real Deal - For the first time since Chris Robison took the field for the Boca Raton Bowl in 2019, the Owls have a legit threat under center. N'Kosi Perry was absolutely dominant on Saturday, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. That was the first time an FAU quarterback threw for at least 300 yards since Robison did so in the 2019 Boca Raton Bowl against SMU. The offense looked incredibly comfortable under Perry, with the graduate transfer quarterback making throws that we haven't seen from a Florida Atlantic quarterback in quite a while. In particular, his 29-yard pass to LaJohntay Wester in the closing seconds of the first half stuck out the most. He was able to hit Wester in the perfect spot under pressure and deliver the ball exactly where it needed to be, and that play gave FAU the momentum they needed going into the second half. Perry took over from that point on, finding the end zone three more times to take the win.
- Keke's Back - Akileis Leroy looks to be in pure 2019 form after his performance on Saturday. Leroy was a crucial part in stopping that high-powered triple-option offense, being in the right positions to make his tackles, ending up with five on the game. The most important of those tackles came with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter, as the Eagles were driving down the field, looking to go up by two scores. With Georgia Southern at the nine-yard line, Leroy was able to wrap up Sam Kenerson in the backfield and pop the ball loose for Jordan Helm to recover, giving the Owls the ball back. In key Keke Leroy fashion, he made the signature play that helped the Owls win this game.
- TE1 is Here - For a second straight game, John Mitchell has looked incredibly comfortable at the tight end position, securing two touchdowns and 60 yards receiving on four receptions. He also continues to look like a natural blocking tight end, being able to keep his assignment at bay, clearing up rushing lanes for the running backs and give N'Kosi Perry time to fire off a pass when he's not out for a route. Tight end was one of the biggest holes on the offense last season, with the Owls getting only one touchdown the whole season out of the position group. Two weeks into the season, the Owls have now doubled last year's total already thanks to Mitchell.
- Deja Vu - You watch the first 25 minutes of the first half and say to yourself "we have made no progress since last weekend." That was a very valid point. There were simply way too many discipline penalties in the first part of that period that were absolute momentum killers. Had it not been for the Jordan Helm interception we very well could have been down 13-0 or possibly 14-0 if they had elected to go for two and gotten it. Perry missing his wide open target to start the second quarter for what could have set up a score when the Owls went for it on 4th down wasn't a help either. Then it all changed.
- Timely Adjustments - When the throwing game wasn't producing much fruit for the Owls initially, they went to the ground game a little more and it started to work effectively. Then bringing the passing game back in with the timely long routes sprinkled in paid some serious dividends - as it is best intended. The halftime adjustments made both offensively and defensively were evident as FAU effectively took the Eagles out of the game all together. The Owls' first half drives ended with two punts, a turnover on downs, a touchdown and a field goal. In the second frame they only punted once and found the scoreboard the remaining four possessions. The Eagles netted 80 yards in the first quarter, and only 177 the rest of the contest.
- Need for Speed - One of this main reasons FAU was so fun to watch in recent years past were two things - speed of play calling and speed on the field. Yesterday we saw one of those buckets begin to re-emerge with LaJohntay Wester (photo left), Johnny Ford, and Perry himself breaking out a fleet footed shuffle at times. What needs to return to previous form is the time taken between snaps. Taggart has eluded to wanting to go fast, and when that piece converges alongside what we are seeing now, this team could be scary good.
- Sack Attack - In week one FAU gave up six sacks to an elite Gator defensive front. Yesterday they gave up five to the Eagles. While that may be considered progress overall by sheer numbers, not really seeing it as a legitimate gain. And it really should have been more on Saturday, but Perry has the ability go to the toolbox and build an exit plan when needed. Going forward the line has got to continue to improve. Would expect this to happen rather quickly, and Fordham is well timed to give them the space to do so.
- Protecting the Ball - While I think the scoreline against Florida flattered us, FAU could have looked a lot better if they didn't see a pair of turnovers that killed impressive drives. Those mistakes were corrected on Saturday as the Owls lone "turnover" came on a poor fourth down attempt. This is important because an option based run attack like GSU's would eat clock in a way that would make an Owls' comeback effort extremely difficult.
- For Schnelly - FAU's offense saw multiple formations with QB N'Kosi Perry taking the snap literally under center. For almost a decade, the Owls offense favored a formation stemming from the shotgun rather than traditional pro-style. The I-formations that we saw on Saturday surely made Coach Schnellenberger smile as he watched his Owls.
- Attendance - Okay, hot take incoming. Stop giving the students crap about not showing up when they still outnumber the non-student sideline. Yes, there were plenty more just outside at the tailgate, but there are also plenty of FAU alumni or Boca citizens that also live in a five mile radius. The students dealt with a 100 degree heat index without the comfort of shade that the other sideline gets to enjoy. Fact of the matter is, the passion of our students represents our best resource. Let's thank them braving the conditions to create a home field advantage stretching from the 2019 Shula Bowl.
Now with a 1-1 record, the Owls will play hot to FCS Fordham next week. The Rams are 0-2 following a blowout loss to Nebraska and a three-point squeaker to Monmouth.
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PHOTO GALLERY: FAU vs Georgia Southern 9-11-21
BOX SCORE: FAU vs Georgia Southern
GAME THREAD: FAU vs Georgia Southern
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