BOCA RATON – FAU didn’t take the easy road to its first victory of the season. The Owls turned the ball over twice early and nearly surrendered the go-ahead touchdown in the second half before pulling away for a 41-31 victory over Ball St. FAU simply displayed too much offensive fire power on Saturday, including a career game for wide receiver John Mitchell to elevate a brilliant effort from quarterback Chris Robison.
Every Sunday we examine the good, the bad and the curious from the previous day’s game with out Four Down Territory analysis. This week includes a blast from the past, as former contributor and FAU graduate Matt Wilson returns to OwlAccess.com to lend his thoughts.
Four Down Territory: FAU 41, Ball St. 31
Chuck King: FAU’s resiliency. Leading 7-0, FAU fumbled on consecutive plays from scrimmage. Ball St. returned one for a touchdown and turned the second recovery into a second score one play later. At that moment the game had that, “Here we go again” feel to it. The Owls could have folded. But they didn’t. FAU settled down defensively and came back to life offensively, displaying poise on both sides of the ball. FAU showed it could overcome adversity and that it knows how to win football games.
Matt Wilson: FAU pressured the quarterback. FAU’s defense prior to the season seemed to be the better side of the ball. They showed it for three quarters against OSU but besides that nothing really seemed to stick for them. FAU recorded five sacks oof quarterback Drew Plitt. The defensive line helped stopping the run. Subtract the 51-yard quarterback sneak, FAU holds Ball State to 116 yards rushing on 35 carries, or a little more than three yards per carry. FAU did not hold OSU or UCF under 200 yards rushing.
King: Rashad Smith. FAU’s senior linebacker provided three of the most important plays of the afternoon. His first fumble recovery led to the Owls’ first touchdown. His second fumble recovery not only prevented Ball St. from taking the lead, it also sparked a another touchdown drive. Smith also forced a fumble with his sack of Drew Plitt. FAU recovered and, you guessed it, converted the turnover into points. Quarterback Chris Robison and wide receiver John Mitchell could easily take the game ball, but let’s show the defense some love.
Wilson: Chris Robison. The redshirt sophomor had the best game of his FAU career this week. The stats do not do enough justice to show how Chris Robison played. Robison dominated the Ball State secondary, completing 33-of-41 passes for 366 yards and a career high four touchdown passes. This Chris Robison looked more like the one we saw last year verse Air Force when he was nearly identical in the completions and incompletions and had 471 yards passing in the thrilling win for the Owls. Robison saw the field well and if it wasn’t for a few drops, he may have even a better day. He showed that there is no debate on who should be starting at FAU this year.
King: Coach Lane Kiffin called out his offensive line publicly following the Owls’ loss to UCF two Saturdays ago and again during the days leading up to the Ball St. victory. The comments had their desired result. The offensive line play wasn’t great, but it was a significant improvement over the first two weeks. Running backs found room and the Cardinals only sacked Robison once.
Wilson: FAU’s defensive call after the Willie Wright fumble. It was first and 10 at the FAU 14 yard line. Ball State throws a fade to wide receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler and the only person out there is James Pierre, who trips at the line, allowing an easy touchdown to make it 14-7 for Ball State. Set aside that Tyler looked like he pulled Pierre down by his face mask two yards off the line, which should have been an illegal hands to the face penalty. Pierre’s safety help was nowhere to be found. Zyon Gilbert needed to move over and help his corner, especially when he has no man coverage and the long side of the field being single man on man coverage. That play could have been a real game changer since it gave Ball State a 14-7 lead. FAU needs more communication on the field.
King: By beating Ball St., FAU positioned itself to enter Conference USA play with a 2-2 record for the second consecutive season. All the Owls have to do is defeat Wagner on Saturday. The Seahawks played UConn tight in a season-opening 24-21 loss. Since then, however, Wagner’s dropped games to East Stroudsburg and Stony Brook. The Owls, however, need to take Wagner seriously. Remember the last time Wagner visited FAU? In 2012, A Graham Wilbert-to-Byron Hankerson hook-up provided the Owls’ lone score of the day as FAU struggled to defeat the Seahawks 7-3 in Carl Pelini’s coaching debut.
Wilson: FAU finally gets there first win of the 2019 college football season after being the only team for its first two weeks in FBS Football to play two top 20 opponents. FAU had an overall great performance on offense, just under 500 yards total. The Owls need to work on holding the ball better as both Dean and Wright got stripped on back to back plays which could have turned the game the wrong way, but overall a great offensive performance. The defense showed improvement but is still prone to surrendering big plays – the 51 yard QB sneak, where if defenders had wrapped up the quarterback instead of hitting the pile, would only a 3 yard gain. FAU is on the right track and should be a force in C-USA.