BOCA RATON – It’s time go get defensive. We’re naming the Top 3 2017 FAU football plays from each phase of the game. On Thursday, we picked the Top 3 FAU offensive plays of 2017. On Saturday we’ll feature special teams. Today we consider a defensive unit that didn’t get the credit it deserves. Under first-year defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin the Owls rank No. 65 (right in the middle of 129 teams) in total defense, allowing 389.6 yards per game. The 22.7 points FAU allowed currently ranks No. 34. While those rankings may not seem overly impressive, they indicate a significant improvement over 2016. They also don’t account for how often FAU’s fast-paced offense quickly sent the defense back onto the field. The Owls scored often in 2017 but didn’t win many time-of-possession battles. When on the field, the Owls made plays. Here are the best.
DEFENSIVE PLAYS OF THE YEAR
1. Pick of the Litter – Jalen Young’s seven interceptions on the year ties him for second most nationally. Three of them came in the 30-25 victory over Marshall. Young’s first of the game came on Marshall’s first possession. He returned it 38 yards, setting up an FAU score. His second came early in the fourth quarter with the Owls up one touchdown. But the pick we’re choosing as the Defensive Play of the Year is his third pick, which came with 2:30 remaining in the game and essentially sealed the victory – although the Owls did try to keep fans in their seats with some interesting clock mismanagement. The performance earned Young C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors and is the top FAU defensive play of 2017.
2. Scoop and Score – FAU’s only defensive touchdown on the season is only good for second place on our list. Up big late against Bethune-Cookman, Andrew Soroh’s crunching hit forced a fumble that bounded around for a couple of seconds before Chris Tooley scooped it up and raced unimpeded to the end zone, giving the Owls their final points of a 45-0 victory. The play capped a big day for Tooley, who also intercepted a pass against B-CC.
3. Big Stop – Leading 7-0 against North Texas in what was, at the time, thought to be the biggest test for FAU in conference, The Owls’ defense came up with a play that placed momentum firmly on the Owls’ sideline. Facing a fourth-and-1 at midfield, North Texas elected to try to pick up the first down. Bad idea. FAU linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair stuffed ball carrier Jeffery Wilson, who fumbled. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Taleni jumped on the loose football. The Owls proceeded to march right back down the short field, scoring to take a 14-0 lead, and the blowout was on. The Owls took a 41-0 lead into halftime before winning 69-31.