BOCA RATON – Surprised that FAU didn’t hand the ball to Devin Singletary and Buddy Howell more frequently during the Owls’ season-opening loss to Navy?
So was coach Lane Kiffin.
“I’m not real excited about that,” Kiffin said. “I felt like (Alabama coach Nick) Saban – but I was nice.”
Along with trolling his former boss – Kiffin, who came to FAU after three years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, has previously criticized the manner which Saban delivered critiques to his coaches – Kiffin also sent a message to his current offensive coordinator, Kendal Briles.
Frequently during the spring and in fall camp Kiffin complimented the FAU running back unit as being the Owls’ best group. He also noted that Baylor’s offense, Briles’ previous stop, was one of the better rushing teams in the nation last season.
Yet during the first half of the Owls’ season-opening 42-19 loss to Navy, FAU handed the ball to Devin Singletary three times and Kerrith Whyte only once. Buddy Howell, the 1A to Singletary’s 1, didn’t get a touch in the first 30 minutes.
“As you study (Navy), it is a throw-to-beat defense,” said Kiffin, noting that teams like South Florida and Louisiana Tech effectively moved the ball through the air last season.
With Navy loaded up to stop the run, the Owls elected to stretch the defense with horizontal passes. That didn’t work well.
Six of FAU’s 21 completions either went for no gain or lost yardage.
While many of those play calls came from the sideline, quarterbacks Daniel Parr and De’Andre Johnson did have the opportunity to check out of plays.
“Some of those are (run-pass options) so they were giving certain looks,” Kiffin said. “(Navy was) definitely loading the box They were stopping the run.”
Kiffin believes FAU’s relative youth at quarterback – Parr made only his second career start, Johnson has yet to start a Division I game – led to Navy’s decision to eliminate FAU’s ability to run the ball. Incumbent starting quarterback Jason Driskel didn’t play in the game.
“I think their thought was probably, once they saw a new quarterback, they were going to blitz him,” Kiffin said. “They were going to stop the run and make him, through the air, try to beat them with a bunch of new receivers, too.”
If that was Navy’s strategy, it was effective.
Penalties, poor snaps and ineffective execution led to three of FAU’s first four drives actually losing yardage.
FAU managed only two drives of more than six plays, both of which resulted in field goals.
Singletary finished the game with 26 yards rushing on six carries. On the stat sheet he finished behind Kerrith Whyte (six carries, 36 yards) and Johnson (four carries, 31 yards). Howell only carried the ball once, gaining eight yards.
“We’re not productive on offense,” Kiffin said.