Late in the second quarter safety Jalen Young left the game with an apparent knee injury and didn’t return. On the sideline he was walking with a soft brace around his right knee.
After the game FAU coach Lane Kiffin termed Young, a preseason All-Conference USA selection, “questionable” for next week against Bethune-Cookman.
The loss of Young was the only major blemish on what became a strong defensive effort for the Owls.
One week after the Owls tackled so poorly that Kiffin instituted live tackling portions of practice – something FAU rarely does during game weeks – Florida Atlantic handled Air Force’s tricky triple option with aplomb.
“That was good after being a concern coming out of last week,” Kiffin said.
Linebacker Rashad Smith set a career high with 16 tackles and sealed the victory with a late interception. Drawing the start at corner in place of the healthy Shelton Lewis, sophomore James Pierre enjoyed his best hitting day as an Owl, blasting his way to seven tackles.
Pierre twice sent Air Force ball carriers flipping through the air.
“I came from Deerfield,” Pierre said. “We used to run the Wing T a couple years ago. That was a similar offense to what we used to have so I was ready to do it.”
Ocie Rose initially replaced Young at safety, but the Owls rotated multiple players at the position during the game.
Young intercepted seven passes in 2017, tied for second most nationally.
GameBrowser: FAU (1-1) 33, Air Force (1-1) 27
TURNING POINT: Leading 25-20 early in the fourth quarter, Chris Robison connected with Willie Wright for a 26-yard touchdown pass that put the Owls up by 13 following a two-point conversion. Asking Air Force to score two touchdowns in 10 minutes is a tall order, although the Owls did try to help the Falcons by poorly managing the end of the game.
- Atrocious special teams play nearly cost FAU the victory. Kicker Vladimir Rivas missed an extra point. For the second time in as many games freshman punter Sebastian Riella had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. And the Owls failed to recover an Air Force onside kick. At this rate, FAU may need to forego the kicking game altogether.
- It appears as though the FAU QB battle is finally settled. Robison broke the Owls’ single-game record by throwing for 471 yards. Much of that yardage came when receivers turn passes caught behind the line of scrimmage into good gains, but Robison had the Owls in the right plays at the right time. And, he was the only one of the three QBs in the battle to play on Saturday.
- Yes, defenses are geared up to stop Devin Singletary, but they were last season, too. Last year’s offensive line held their blocks long enough to give Singletary room to operate. That’s not happening this season. The line did, however, give Robison plenty of time to throw.
- The relative absence of the tight ends during the first couple games has been puzzling. Harrison Bryant caught only two passes, totaling 28 yards on Saturday. John Raine’s lone catch went for negative yardage. Maybe Kiffin is waiting for Conference USA play to fire those weapons.
- Through two games, FAU is doing a good job of limiting turnovers. Second string quarterback Rafe Peavey’s interception in the loss to Oklahoma was the lone FAU turnover last week. FAU turned the ball over only once against Air Force, when a poor attempt at a hand-off resulted in a fumble.
2 – Punts opponents have blocked this season and returned for TDs against the Owls.
3 – First downs picked up by Air Force on third or fourth down on the Falcons’ 15 attempts.
16 – Tackles recorded by junior linebacker Rashad Smith, a career high.
54 – Total rushing yards for FAU on 29 carries.
80 – Minute lightning delay prior to opening kickoff. The storms forced FAU to scuttled the planned F-16 flyover.
174 – Receiving yards and one touchdown by Jovon Smith on 12 catches.
21,101 – Announced attendance for FAU’s home opener. The storms certainly scared some fans away. The actual attendance was probably closer to 17,000.
UP NEXT: FAU plays its second consecutive home game when Bethune-Cookman comes to Boca Raton on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.