Each Sunday we break down FAU’s football game from the previous day – in this case a 34-31 loss to Buffalo. The Owls went down by 14 early and took a 17-14 lead late in the first half, before falling behind again by double digits – a deficit they couldn’t overcome this time. Coach Lane Kiffin characterized the loss as “embarrassing.” Was it? Let’s take a closer look.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Kiffin elected to stay with Jason Driskel at quarterback. Driskel and Daniel Parr were pretty much even throughout fall camp. Unhappy with the passing game this season, Kiffin decided to see whether Driskel could bring a spark. That’s understandable. But FAU managed fewer than 50 passing yards in the first half, at which point it was clear Driskel wasn’t the answer. Parr was coming off a win and is better than Driskel at attacking downfield. Parr needed to be the quarterback in the second half. With De’Andre Johnson’s season in doubt following surgery to remove blood clots in his arm, is FAU inching closer to Conor Miller time?
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Devin Singletary is unstoppable. With Buddy Howell sidelined by an undisclosed injury, the back who goes by the nickname “Motor” powered his way to 156 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He’ll be a candidate for Conference USA’s offensive player of the week. It should be noted that running back Kerrith Whyte raced to 72 yard on only five carries. The offensive line as a whole did a fantastic job opening lanes and FAU’s backs took advantage.
CONTROVERSIAL CALL: With less than three minutes remaining and trailing 27-24, Kiffin elected to try to pickup a first down on fourth and three from the Owls own 17. The obvious implication of that choice was that Kiffin didn’t believe his defense would get the ball back if he elected to punt. FAU came up inches short on fourth down, but the decision still nearly worked out in FAU’s favor. Buffalo ran the ball into the line twice without gaining yardage, and with FAU using its first two timeouts those plays only removed a dozen seconds from the clock. Had FAU held on third down Buffalo likely would have attempted a field goal. Even if the Bulls made the kick, FAU would have still gotten the ball back trailing only by six with about two minutes remaining. Not exactly insurmountable. Alas, Buffalo connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass on third down that put the game out of reach.
EXTRA POINT: FAU’s willingness to get away from its offensive strength via its own play calling is baffling. Singletary is FAU’s best offense player. When healthy – which he wasn’t on Saturday – Buddy Howell is the Owls’ second-best player. Yet FAU called pass play after pass play and the offense stagnated despite averaging 7.1 yards per rush. Buffalo could not stop FAU on the ground, but it appears that the only people who didn’t realize that were on FAU’s sideline. Here’s a way to solve FAU’s current quarterback issue: Line up Singletary and John Franklin (or Howell, when healthy) next to each other in the backfield. Let one of them take a direct snap and go. Make the defense try to figure out which explosive ball carrier with get the ball on any given play. Or simply continue to hand the ball to Singletary. Run the ball, FAU. You’re actually good at it.