Florida Atlantic survived a third-straight slow start offensively to grab hold of a 45-14 victory over Fordham on Saturday night. The game's start time was delayed from 6:00 to 7:15 after a lightning strike eight miles away from FAU Stadium forced the game to be postponed. The field wasn't impacted by rain, as there wasn't a drop of rain at FAU Stadium leading off to kickoff.
They held the Rams to just 29 yards rushing, which stays true to the "Sea of Red" mentality cornerback Korel Smith mentioned on Wednesday before practice. "I would like to swarm the ball more, see a 'Sea of Red'," Smith said. "We gotta have all 11 guys to the ball, attacking the running back or whoever has the ball, and it will cause turnovers too." FAU's defense held true to those words, holding Fordham to 1/16 on third-down conversions and forcing two interceptions.
FAU struck first after two three-and-outs with N'Kosi Perry finding the end zone on a two-yard quarterback draw with 5:13 to go in the first quarter. Both defenses held firm throughout the first half until Fordham's Tim DeMorat found Fotis Kokosioulis for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 11:18 to go in the second quarter. The deadlock would continue until Larry McCammon powered through the Rams' defense on a six-yard run to put the Owls up 14-7. They wouldn't trail from that point on.
The Owls would get the first two scores of the second half to take a 28-7 lead. LaJohntay Wester opened up the second half scoring with a 25-yard touchdown reception from Perry just over four and a half minutes into the third quarter. Wester would finish the games with 10 receptions and 101 yards, becoming the first Owl to have back-to-back 100-yard games since Jovon Durante did in 2018. "His football IQ is so good," Perry said about Wester. "I feel like we have that chemistry." T.J. Chase would find the end zone with 4:!2 to go in the third quarter to extend the lead.
After a huge 48-yard touchdown pass from DeMorat to Dequece Carter that got Fordham back into the ball game with 9:45 to go, the momentum would swing back FAU's way. On the next drive, the Owls capped off a six-play, 52-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown from Kelvin Dean Jr. (photo center), the first of his career. Just 16 seconds later, Teja Young would return an interception 22 yards to the end zone to make it 42-14. Aaron Shariari would extend that lead to 45-14 with a 23-yard field goal with 2:08 to go.
Today's win extends FAU's home winning streak to 10, which ranks ninth in the nation. They haven't lost at Howard Schnellenberger Field since falling 36-31 to Marshall on Oct. 18, 2019.
Here are the Owl's Nest Team's Takeaways from the game:
- Delay Central - You can count on some sort of a weather anomaly every year for an FAU football game. At least Saturday's 75 minute setback wasn't as bad as former Coach Lane Kiffin's debut against Navy in 2017. That game saw three stoppages, took 5:44 to play, and didn't end until 1:47 AM. On top that the Owls lost 42-19.
- Perry Finding His Legs - After posting tallies of -1.9 and .1 yards per carry in the Owls' first two contest against Florida and Georgia Southern respectively, QB N'Kosi Perry finally put up some positive numbers on the ground. While he didn't light it up as he is certainly capable of doing, the signal caller finished with 29 YDS (4.8 YPC) and a score against the Rams.
- Night and Day - With the win over the Rams, the Owls move to 10 straight at home. FAU also improves to 20-18 all-time at home for night games. Conversely, they are 49-35 all-time when playing day games at home. Might be something to keep in mind when scheduling options present themselves down the line.
- Stop The Drops - FAU likely let three would be scores get away in the first half due to drops. Perry is slinging the rock with impressive accuracy, and needs his support staff to haul them in. As we move through the season those potential miscues could prevent game outcomes in their favor.
- Another Slow Start - For the third straight week, the Owls' offense stumbled out of the gate. FAU went three-and-out on the first two drives, only gaining a combined seven yards. The Owls' halftime score of 14 points, beat out their 10 points from last week against Georgia Southern. However, improvement is still needed in the way the team starts the game, as Fordham was hanging along with FAU in the first half.
- Owls' Defense Holds Strong After Turnovers - FAU gave Fordham two drives with prime field position after LaJohntay Wester muffed two separate punts in the first and third quarters. The first of which came with 3:53 to go in the first quarter, giving the Rams the ball at FAU's 30-yard line. FAU's defense would hold strong, forcing a three-and-out where Fordham was forced to punt from the 32-yard line. The second of which pinned the ball at midfield with 11:03 to go in the third. FAU's defense would push the Rams back 10 yards after Jaylen Joyner forced an 11-yard sack on 3rd and 9, forcing another three-and-out.
- Teja Young Leads The Pack - After leading Florida Atlantic in tackles (19) and interceptions (1) through the first two weeks of the season, Teja Young continued to assert himself as a leader on the defense after scoring a pick-six with his second interception of the game with 7:25 left in the fourth quarter to make it 42-14 Owls. He also added two solo tackles and a pass breakup during today's victory. While Caliph Brice's six tackles gave him the team lead in tackles, Young's performance still solidifies him as a leader on the defense. He is apparent in all aspects of the game, stopping oncoming runners and breaking up passes that come his way. "He plays the game with great effort," Head Coach Willie Taggart said. "He practices that way all through camp, and he never misses a practice." The redshirt sophomore's versatile skillset alongside the also talented Jordan Helm makes for one of the most underrated safety tandems in the nation.
- Build CJ a Statue - During the lightning delay, CJ Thomas of FAU's PrOWLers did everything in his power to hype up the fans during the weather delay before the game… and it worked. The student section was as loud as it could possibly be while nothing was happening on the field and his rallying of the troops was huge in keeping the fans in the stadium for kickoff. The crowd stayed loud throughout the first half and it very well could've helped FAU's offense get ramped up faster than it did over the last two weeks. "I love our fans, I love our student section," Perry said after the game. "I was very excited to come out after that delay and see that they were still there. I was scared that everyone was going to leave." This very well could've been one of the rare cases where someone in the student section had an impact of the outcome of the game.
- Kelvin's Night Out - FAU fans have been told to keep an eye on Kelvin Dean's development for three years now, and yesterday showcased why. The COVID-year redshirt freshman lead the team in yards per carry with 8.2, almost double the amount from the Owl behind him (N'Kosi Perry, 4.8 YPC). The two paired up for an impressive drive that killed the game off for good in the fourth quarter, capped off with Dean's first collegiate touchdown.
- Where's the Rush - The absence of a pass rush is starting to worry me. Jaylen Joyner got the only sack on the night, which brings FAU's sack total to two. Both of FAU's sacks this season have come from Joyner. The Owls will have to establish a fierce pass rush against the likes of Marshall's Grant Wells and WKU's Bailey Zappe in order to slow down their offenses.
- Speed Kills - We all saw Fordham struggle with injuries, often at frustrating times as the Owls' offense was moving the ball down field. FAU showed that when they are quick to the line, they can cause problems for opposing defenses. Pair that with the team's speed along the edges and we could see more opposing defenses "in pain" as the season goes on.
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