FAU quarterback Stephen Curtis will likely start his first game vs. Wagner on Friday.
FAU coach Carl Pelini is concerned how his players will perform in a new system during his first game as a college head coach
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BOCA RATON – Florida Atlantic's last play in its last practice before it opens the 2012 season was one the Owls hope they will use plenty of times this season.
In an effort to be prepared for any and every situation, FAU practiced “victory” formation – when the quarterback takes a knee as the clock ticks down.
Owls coach Carl Pelini clearly is leaving nothing to chance. But will preparation be enough for FAU to show improvement under Pelini?
“This is our first game and we haven't gone in a game situation with these guys yet,” Pelini said. “You try to simulate it in scrimmages, but you can't.”
On Friday, when the Owls face Wagner at 8 p.m., the process of finding out begins. Pelini hopes his team is ready.
“I don't know our team yet,” Pelini said. “You don't really know until the bullets start flying. You train them and train them and train them so on game day it's no different from practice. But you never know how they are going to react.”
FAU will be looking to improve on its 1-11 record last season - the final year of Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger's tenure.
Wagner will be FAU's easiest game of the season. The Seahawks are a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, but at around 40 scholarships, are well below the maximum of 63 allowed at that level. Football Bowl Subdivision teams like FAU are allowed a maximum of 85 scholarships.
But the Seahawks do have one thing the Owls don't: Experienced players who have been running the same system for veteran coach Walt Hameline, who is entering his 32nd year at Wagner.
And that experience could be important vs. the Owls who are playing in Pelini's first game as a head coach.
“They have a lot more guys who have played in a college football game - or more than we have,” Pelini said. “Our side of the ball will be more of an adventure. It always is with a new staff, new way of doing things and a new sideline. Everything is going to be new for our guys so just keeping them settled down and focused will be 90 percent of my job on Friday.”
Owl Access' Keys to the Game: Wagner at FAU
Key for FAU
Get the offense going: The Owls' offense was the worst in the nation last season, so the Pelini regime brought the spread offense in hopes of providing a spark. How that offense performs with inexperience at skill positions will determine how this season will go for the Owls.
Key for Wagner
Get fired up: The Seahawks have never faced an FBS team, so this is a huge game for the Wagner program. Don't expect the Seahawks to be intimidated either. Ticket sales have been abysmal as little has done to promote the program or this game so FAU won't have much of a home-field advantage.
FAU RB Damian Fortner vs. Wagner LB Mike Lombardo: Lombardo, who played at nearby Jupiter Christian, had a team-high 82 tackles in 2011, but may have trouble chasing the quick and elusive Fortner, who will be making his first career start.
- 18: Players from state of Florida on Wagner's roster.
- 29: Turnovers forced last season by the Seahawks, tops in the Northeast Conference.
- 101: Yards rushing last season by returning FAU players, the fewest in the nation.