By AJ Johnson
The FAU football team fell to Ohio in a close 17-10 matchup, the Owls’ first loss of the season.
A week ago, we were singing the praises of Tom Herman’s squad after an impressive debut against Monmouth. We all felt that this was the start of the turnaround for a team that was lackluster at best last season. In fact, it was safe to say that the attitude around campus had changed.
But after last night’s performance, the question is did we speak too soon??
Casey Thompson did not play like that top guy we know him to be (didn’t help that he was under pressure all night long), and the ground game never got off the ground when a spark was definitely needed. Due to these, along with a few turnovers that the Owls couldn’t capitalize on, FAU fell short of its comeback 17-10 to Ohio.
Now we could spend this piece tearing apart Casey Thompson, but this one was not all on him. In fact, Ohio gave FAU chances to get it done as Kurtis Rourke was picked off twice, and they even lost a fumble. So it was not like the opportunities were not there. The blame can be shared as a team for this round. But rather focus on what went wrong in this game, we should highlight some of the things that actually went right instead.
Jarron Morris decided that he wanted a Brian Branch moment of his own as he took a pick six back to the house. Lajohntay Wester had a great performance as he turned 12 catches for 101 yards (The 12 catches in a game is tied for third most in FAU history). Despite throwing a pair of picks, Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke finished up with 18-29 for 203 yards and a touchdown. Neither team delivered an impact that would resonate throughout the game. Total passing yards in the game was 383…TOTAL! FAU’s running game was nonexistent as it finished the game with five total yards on the ground on 15 attempts.
Jarron Morris on his first Owl touchdown
“I saw it all the way. I. was reading my keys and I saw him get a signal that he ran on me earlier. I knew he was going to run an out route, so I was just trying my hardest to break down to it. It just came to me.”
The long ball didn’t show up either for Thompson(23-43-2 180 yards) as he accumulated only 4.2 yards per pass. And even though they had the same amount of drives for the game (12), Ohio controlled the time of possession (37:13 vs. 21:22 for FAU) and were able to outgain the Owls by almost 200 yards.
But despite being down 17-10 late in the fourth quarter, you must admire the Owls for one thing: They didn’t throw in the towel as Wester’s 29-yard punt return helped spark a last-minute comeback effort. They final offensive drive fell just short as time expired.
Casey Thompson said after the game: “We knew [Ohio] was going to be physical. We knew they were going to be well-coaches and sound. That is exactly what they were tonight. They started to present a few different looks that we were not necessarily gameplanning for. Teams are really smart when they gameplan us because what they show on film is not exactly how they are going to play because they know the weapons that we have at receiver…Overall, we just have to play better. That starts with me at quarterback. We have to run the ball and get a run game going and then in the passing game, we just have to clean up a little bit of details, whether that is an incompletion, accuracy issues, or a dropped pass here or there.”
This was really such a strange game to breakdown and analyze afterwards and Head Coach Tom Herman agrees.
Coach Herman: “Maybe one of the weirdest games I have been apart. I told the team at halftime with a smile on my face up 10-7 that there is not a team in the country that can beat two teams in one night and we were trying to do that the entire half and a lot of times in the second half. In the first half, we had two personal fouls, two facemasks, targeting, four drops and 11 yards rushing. As bad as of a night as we had in the first half, we were still in the lead thanks very much in part to the defense and the effort they showed. The thing that sticks out as well it should is how poorly we played offensively. I told our team that I still believe. I have been doing this a long time and our best is really good. For whatever reason, I don’t know if we have to change the way we handle rain delays, if I have to change the approach with the team. We try to tell them all week that as pleased as we were with the outcome of Monmouth, we knew we had work to do and we knew that the competition level was going to ratchet up significantly…I do think we are talented enough. As I told the team, we are a work in progress. Every one of our long-term goals is still out there…We will lick our wounds tonight, bright and early tomorrow we will figure out what went wrong and how to adjust. At the end of the day, it is not about plays, it is about the way that we play under pressure. That is my main task this week, to get guys to understand that all you have to do is play the way you are coached to play with fanatical effort and the technique that you are coached to do. We are talented enough to do it, but there are times out there where it is chaos.. We will go to the ends of the earth to figure out why that is, but I am confident that we will have learned the lessons that are presented to us tonight and learn because of it.”
The lack of a running game, turnovers, penalties and injuries (star receiver Je’Quan Burton, first FAU offensive play of the game) absolutley complicated things for Tom Herman’s squad, but again, the Bobcats did give them chances to win this game.
When you take a look at the stat sheet for FAU, you can try to look pass the obvious numbers with a minus next to them. But you cannot ignore the numbers all around though. McCammon was absent after finishing with seven carries for 23 yards. One nice part of the offensive stat sheet is Wester’s numbers which makes it appear that he came to ball out.
Last week, I found myself thinking this FAU team could hang with the Clemson Tigers, their next opponent. But if they cannot get their ground game working by that time, the Tigers will eat them alive. Granted, many are not expecting FAU to do much against a former national champion. But this is the same former national championship team that lost to Duke last week.
Either way, the ground game has to improve in bunches before they take on the Tigers. Thompson has to be better as well.
The offensive line has to find ways to give more protection and more time for Thompson to go through his motions. But Thompson has to be the guy that starts and finishes each drive. You cannot expect to bask in the glory without basking in the defeats too.
Defensive Highlights from the game:
- Linebacker Eddie Williams led the game in tackles with 11
- Ambush added eight tackles and a TFL to his interception
- Three Owls forced turnovers: Ambush, Morris and McClendon
Up Next: Saturday, Sept. 16, the Owls will hit the road for a matchup against the No. 25 Clemson Tigers, broadcasted by the ACC Network. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Full Game Box Score