On Tuesday, immediately following the Owls’ second practice of the week in preparation for their upcoming game against Middle Tennessee, Kiffin called out the Owls’ leading wide receiver while answering questions from the media and indicated FAU’s offensive line was far from perfect, too.
DeAndre McNeal led FAU with seven catches against Buffalo, but it was a third-down drop that sticks in Kiffin’s memory.
“He has played really well in the first three games and then last week wasn’t himself – had the critical drop on third down that killed the drive,” Kiffin said. “Really, I don’t know what it was – he didn’t play very fast at all. I don’t know. We’ve got to figure that out and get him back to how he was playing because he’s done a really good job.”
Of all the new wide receivers, McNeal has formed the quickest bond with FAU quarterbacks. His 18 catches are twice as many as any other Owl, and only fellow newcomer Willie Wright averages more than McNeal’s 16.6 yards per catch.
In each of the first three games of the season McNeal caught at least one pass for more than 25 yards. His longest catch against Buffalo only covered nine yards.
“I wasn’t that explosive, I guess you could say, in this past game against Buffalo,” said McNeal, a junior college transfer who began his career at Texas.
“I hate it that it came against Buffalo, a team that we could have beat. It won’t happen again.”
Kiffin also wasn’t pleased with mistakes the offensive line made on critical plays.
FAU rushed for 262 yards against the Bulls, but when Buffalo needed a stop the most, it got one.
Trailing 27-24 with a little less than three minutes remaining, Kiffin elected to try to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-three from the Owls own 17. The Owls gave the ball to Devin Singletary, who would account for 156 of those 262 rushing yards on the night, but he was bottled up in the backfield before lunging toward the line to make.
Singletary came up short, the ball turned over to Buffalo, and the Bulls converted the excellent field position into a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
“(Singletary) tries to do it on his own because we don’t make the right call and we don’t block the backer – the same look we’ve had a million times.”
A sophomore, Singletary leads the Owls with 359 rushing yards on the season. Against MTSU last season he bolted through the Blue Raiders defense for 235 yards.
“We’ve got to block the guys,” Kiffin said. “(Singletary) does a great job of saving us when we don’t. It’s really good to have him, obviously, but we’ve still got to do the right things.”