The Owls moved the ball with equal success on the ground and through the air. FAU’s defense shut down Charlotte’s vaunted running attack. Florida Atlantic won the turnover battle, forcing three while only committing one.
FAU began Conference USA play with a victory for the second time in Lane Kiffin’s three-year run as coach. The Owls now boast a three-game winning streak.
Each week we examine the good, the bad and the curious from the previous day’s game with our Four Down Territory analysis.
Four Down Territory: FAU 45, Charlotte 27
Chuck King: The ease with which FAU moved the football. FAU’s running game found traction, racing to a season-high 236 yards. Three different running backs scored touchdowns. Chris Robison continues to play efficient quarterback. Basically, everything FAU tried on offense, including inserting backup QB Nick Tronti in place of Robison as part of a wildcat-type package, worked.
Matt Wilson: The dominance of the FAU rush defense. FAU held Charlotte to 52 total rushing yards, limiting Benny LeMay to only 46 rushing yards. It is the first game FAU held a FBS opponent to under 100 yards this season. It was also the first time LeMay was held to under 50 yards rushing all season.
King: The offensive line. Much maligned throughout the first four games, the front five of Brandon Walton, BJ Etienne, Junior Diaz, Nick Weber and Marquice Robinson played their best game of the season. It didn’t matter who carried the ball, the holes were there. And, for the most part, Robison had plenty of time to throw the ball.
Wilson: Meikp Dotson. The redshirt junior had a career day, recording two interceptions in addition to two tackles. Dotson’s interceptions were the first of his collegiate career. His crucial interception in the end zone kept FAU with a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
King: A hamstring injury suffered in Week 2 against UCF forced Malcolm Davidson to miss the previous two weeks, but he returned on Saturday. Davidson didn’t look completely healthy, missing some of his top-end speed, but he responded with a game-high 83 rushing yards and two TDs. A review of what appeared to be a lateral but was scored a 30-yard reception for Davidson may push those yards into the run column, elevating that total over 100 yards.
Wilson: Inserting Nick Tronti at QB. At the beginning of the second quarter with FAU Kiffin swapped Robison for Tronti. The timing when Owls decided to use Tronti as a wildcat quarterback was weird. He did run the ball well, and the Owls kicked a field goal on the drive.
King: Entering the Charlotte game Kiffin noted that he wasn’t certain whether the 2019 Owls were similar in makeup to the 2017 C-USA championship team or last year’s underachievers. Saturday’s victory over Charlotte evoked images of 2017, but the Owls aren’t there yet. Penalties and special teams play remain concerns, and its entirely possible that Charlotte isn’t nearly as good as people thought. That being said, there’s no reason FAU can’t win any of the remaining games on its schedule. The Owls have as much pure talent as any C-USA team. This should be a fun team to follow.
Wilson: Overall this was a strong showing for the Owls and a good first conference win. The running game was able to move the ball after a quiet start to the season. The Owls ran for over 200 yards including 83 from freshman Malcolm Davidson and scored for four rushing touchdowns. Aside from the tipped interception, Robison showed he can still lead the Owls, throwing for 312 yards and two scores. Plus a strong showing by the FAU defense.