By AJ Johnson
Last season, the FAU Owls did not start well. They started with a one-point OT loss to Western Kentucky, and the season did not end well either. They finished 5-7 (4-4 C-USA) and cut ties with Willie Taggart. Tom Herman was inserted as the new coach and hit the ground running with the addition of new, old quarterback Casey Thompson.
New Look FAU Owls
The result was an impressive outing for Thompson and a win for the Owls.
Behind Thompson’s 20-25 for 280 yards and five touchdowns, as well as senior Larry McCammon III’s 13 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown, the FAU Owls started their 2023 campaign with a 42-20 win over the Monmouth Hawks.
Thompson spent much of the day spreading the ball around and ensured that everyone got a share of the glory. Tony Johnson was Thompson’s main target as he contributed five catches for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Je’Quan Burton also provided some spark with three grabs for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well.
But the FAU defense also took moments to shine themselves as Marlon Bradley notched three tackles and a sack on Saturday, and Jarrett Jerrels was able to grab himself an interception. For a team that looked disheveled last season, Herman has managed to instill confidence and strength in his FAU debut. The team indeed showed promise, poise and power in their season opener as they prepare for their matchup this weekend against Ohio.
But it is the game after that will have everyone’s attention.
On paper, one would hope that the FAU Owls could at least garner some points against what would have been the heavily favored Clemson Tigers. However, on a weekend where stunners happened nationwide (Colorado beating TCU, Florida State beating LSU), a basketball school took down a national champion powerhouse in Clemson as Duke beat down the Tigers 28-7 in Durham, NC.
I say that again: Duke, known for its basketball program, beat the Clemson Tigers…in football!
Seeing this as you wake up this morning, it is safe to say that while he isn’t showing his hand, Herman is definitely seeing this as an opportunity for the Owls to be possibly 3-0 heading into the final game of the month against Illinois. But that is a premonition in my eyes. For now, let’s focus on the strength of the Owls in this game against the Hawks.
After punting on their opening drive of the second half, the Owls went back to scoring via the arm of Thompson as he threw his fourth touchdown pass to Burton for his second touchdown reception. The end zone party kept going in the final stretch of the third quarter as Thompson launched his fifth touchdown to redshirt sophomore Johnson for 72 yards, which turned out to be the final touchdown of the game for the Owls, putting them up 42-14.
Now while the Hawks did score one more time before the final gun to make it 42-20, it was just too much Casey Thompson, too much all-around, well-balanced offense and way too much Owls. A visibly fired up Herman showed his appreciation to the home crowd in Boca Raton before celebrating with his team in the locker room.
At the beginning of the season, it was discussed what impact Herman’s arrival on campus would have on this football team. Considering the way the team performed over the weekend, the matchup with Ohio should be another fun one. Last season, the Bobcats survived the Owls with a 41-38 victory. Teams usually do not gel well in their first game with a new coach and new quarterback, but it does seem that Florida Atlantic looks hungrier than they did last season.
It is said that winning does change the attitude and demeanor of players. Herman coming from years of success at Houston (and despite what they say, Texas) has managed to invoke that winning spirit in these young men to the point where they not only think they can hang with the big dogs, but they also feel it as well. The Owls look to have the mentality of a team that refuses to be pushovers for anyone anymore, and if they play like this next weekend, then Dabo Sweeney should be heavily concerned.
For now, the Owls can walk into class this week with their heads held high and into practice ready to run it back once again. And considering that I did see them winning at least eight or nine games this season, all they have to do is dominate, rinse, repeat. Herman made it clear that he was bringing more promise, poise and power to this program. If the defense plays like the offense did, expect the poise of the defense to match the power of the offense and equal the promise of postseason for this program.
I will agree with Anthony Brown that this was indeed an excellent start for them.
FAU now resets the clock and prepares for their September 9th showdown with the Ohio Bobcats.