FAU wide receiver Byron Hankerson, center, and wide receiver Daniel McKinney, right, celebrate Hankerson's touchdown last week vs. Wagner as wide receiver William Dukes watches. (Photo Courtesy of Ralph Notaro/ Owl Pix)
Something to prove
FAU can surpass its victory total from last season by beating MTSU on Saturday.
Originally published on
BOCA RATON – After Florida Atlantic needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to squeak by Wagner 7-3 in its season opener, it's hard to get a gauge on how much the Owls have improved from last season.
After facing Middle Tennessee on Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference opener, the Owls will have a much better idea and will know if they are a better team than in 2011 or if this is going to be another long season.
Playing their first game under new coach Carl Pelini and a new coaching staff, there were some “jitters” and players were “pressing too much," Pelini said.
Pelini hopes to see less of that in the second game of the season when the Owls can surpass last season's victory total.
“We press,” Pelini said. “We don’t know how to win. We don’t know how to compete and we don’t know how to let the game come to us. ...We’re better than our players realize we are. They’re better individually than they think they are. The hard part is convincing them of that.”
After last week's embarrassing 26-21 loss to McNeese State, also an FCS team, it's the Blue Raiders who might be under more pressure this week.
“All of our goals are still out there with the exception of going undefeated,” said MTSU coach Rick Stockstill. “We can still win our conference and that starts this week. We have to get better, individually and as a team, and eliminate our mistakes from last Thursday.”
The Blue Raiders have lost seven consecutive games and haven't won a game since they defeated the Owls 38-14 last season.
In that game Middle Tennessee scored on its first three possessions and jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter before the Owls, who had six turnovers in that game, could make significant adjustments.
With a new defensive system in place this season, the Owls have spent little time watching tape of that game this week and say they won't be caught off-guard this season.
“This will be different,” said FAU senior linebacker David Hinds.
OwlAccess.com's Keys to the Game
Key for FAU
Take care of the ball: FAU had four turnovers vs. Wagner, including two fumbles by junior running back Martese Jackson. The Blue Raiders made the Owls pay for the miscues last season.
Key for MTSU
Get the ground game going: The Blue Raiders only rushed for 103 yards last week vs. McNeese State and it could be even tougher to establish the run vs. the Owls with running back Benny Cunningham nursing an injured shoulder which could keep him out of the game.
Blue Raiders WR Anthony Amos vs. Owls CB Keith Reaser: Reaser could have his hands full with Amos, who had a TD and a career-high eight receptions last week, and has emerged as MTSU's top receiver and a frequent target for QB Logan Kilgore.
- 8: Seasons since the Owls started off 2-0. The last time FAU won the first two games of a season was in 2004 when it beat Hawaii and North Texas and eventually jumped out to a 5-0 mark.
- 12: FAU players who saw action in their first game last week vs. Wagner.
- 4: Consecutive victories by MTSU over FAU.