BOCA RATON – FAU made the biggest plays when it needed to, which allowed the Owls to slide past Middle Tennessee 28-13 on Saturday.
Malcom Davidson’s 57-yard touchdown run, John Mitchell’s acrobatic touchdown catch and three defensive interceptions – two by Meiko Dotson – proved too much for the Blue Raiders to overcome.
Winners of four consecutive games, FAU sits at 2-0 in Conference USA play and is off to its best start since the 2004 season.
Each week week look back at the positive, negative and the curious from the previous day’s game with our Four Down Territory analysis. Enjoy.
Four Down Territory: FAU 28, MTSU 13
Chuck King: Nick Tronti. After spending Wednesday night in the hospital dealing with what’s been described as a full-body cramp, Tronti’s availability for Saturday along with his potential effectiveness, seemed uncertain. However, the redshirt sophomore entered in the third quarter and sparked what had been a meandering offense. Running his Tronti-cat package, Tronti only managed 11 rushing yards, but the threat of his legs opened the lane for Davidson’s score. The lone pass Tronti completed came on a fourth down, extending a drive. Meiko Dotson and his two picks is a close second here, but Dotson did get beat for a TD.
Matt Wilson: Meiko Dotson once again had himself a game for the Owls. The defensive back had two interceptions, including one to effectively end the game late in the fourth quarter. It was Dotson’s second game in a row with two interceptions. Dotson ranks third in the country in interceptions. He has been a hidden gem for the Owls and reminds me of Jalen Young during the 2017 season.
King: FAU’s struggles in the passing game. Chris Robison had an off day, simple as that. He completed only 15 of 30 pass attempts for 145 yards, and only three wide receivers caught passes. FAU coach Lane Kiffin thought the strength of this offense would be its rushing game. On Saturday that ground attack showed up when it was needed most.
Wilson: Malcolm Davidson rushing for 149 yards was a big shock. Davidson was the first rusher for 100 yards on the season for the Owls. With the changes at offensive line, the team was able to get the push needed to be able to move the ball. Davidson has been improving and seeing him shine was a nice surprise.
King: The offensive line shuffles. It wasn’t surprising that Desmond Noel started at left tackle in place of B.J. Etienne. Inserting Etienne at right tackle and walk-on Deon Humphrey at left guard on the same first-half possession did draw some puzzled looks from the media.
Wilson: Down 13-12 in the third quarter, FAU brought in Nick Tronti at quarterback to start the drive that ended in Davidson’s touchdown. On the next possession Tronti led the Owls to a few first downs. On third down, Chris Robison re-entered and was unable to complete the pass. This is the second time in three games that they have made this call. Pulling out Tronti and putting in Robison changes the dynamics of the offense and changes the speed. If you are going to take out Tronti, take him out on first and 2nd down, thereby keeping the pressure off Robison to make a play.
King: Despite a paltry attendance that approached half of the 12,107 officially announced number, this entire weekend was a win for FAU. Friday’s Hall of Fame inductions were first class, a wonderful celebration of past accomplishment. And by winning on Saturday FAU positioned itself to be a player in the battle to reach the Conference USA championship game. Big weekend for the Owls.
Wilson: The Owls are now 2-0 in conference play and 4-2 overall. The Owls got it done on the ground against the Blue Raiders and struggled passing. Robison was only able to throw for 145 yards and one touchdown. He lost his three-game 300-yard passing streak but the Owls didn’t need it this week thanks to the run game excelling. The Owls have a short week and take on Marshall at Howard Schnellenberger Field on Friday.