BOCA RATON – A defense expected to be FAU’s biggest weakness once again looked like the Owls’ most formidable strength in a 24-3 victory over Texas-San Antonio.
FAU pressured UTSA in the pocket and smothered ball carriers at the line, sacking UTSA (4-4, 2-2) quarterbacks seven times and limiting the Roadrunners to 230 total yards. The Owls have only allowed a total of four touchdowns in three games this season.
On Saturday they kept Sincere McCormick, the reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week, from finding daylight, holding him to 54 yards on 16 carries.
The Owls’ defensive line menaced and harassed UTSA starting QB Frank Harris, sacking him four times and not allowing a completion of 20 yards or more.
“Really excited about the way our defense played,” FAU coach Willie Taggart said. “I thought they were lights out today. They did great job of shutting down (UTSA’s) run game.”
Harris’ lone highlight came on a 50-yard QB draw that gave the Roadrunners a first down at the FAU 24. After a holding penalty erased an 18-yard touchdown pass and a Leighton McCarthy sack of Harris pushed them back even further, UTSA ending the possession by punting from the FAU 40.
Looking for a fourth-quarter spark, UTSA turned to reserve Jordan Weeks – more of a traditional pocket passer. He was a sitting duck, logging more sacks – three – than completions.
Jaylen Joyner set a career high with three sacks, as did Chris Jones with two.
Offensively, the Owls sputtered frequently but did enough to improve their record to 2-1.
Nick Tronti threw for one touchdown and rushed for another, allowing the Owls to take a 17-3 lead into halftime.
After FAU’s first drive of the second half looked ragged in the rain, Taggart sent true freshman Willie Taggart Jr. to replace Tronti as a change of pace. Two drives led by Taggart Jr. netted nine yards.
Regular second string quarterback Javion Posey didn’t dress for Saturday’s game. He missed the previous two weeks with COVID-19 issues and didn’t return to practice until Friday.
Tronti returned for the Owls’ first drive of the fourth quarter, piloting FAU’s 12-play 68-yard TD drive that resulted in a Vladi Rivas 47-yard missed field goal.
Davidson appeared to tweak a bothersome hamstring injury during a 30-yard run, but he returned two drives later for a couple carries on a drive culminated by a James Charles two-yard touchdown run that effectively iced the game.
“On offense, we made some plays here and there, wasn’t as consistent as we’d like to be, but we made plays when we needed to,” Taggart said.
Starting running back BJ Emmons did not dress as he continues to battle an ankle injury. Fellow running back Larry McCammon’s ankle injury suffered last week at Marshall kept him from dressing.
The Owls’ leading rusher last season, Davidson led the Owls with 115 rushing yards on Saturday. Tronti completed nine of 16 passes for a pedestrian 136 yards.
Jordan Helm led FAU with eight tackles.
FAU returns to Howard Schnellenberger Field on Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff against Western Kentucky. Taggart, in his first year at FAU, played and coached for the Hilltoppers.