Each Sunday during the football season OwlAccess.com writers Chuck King, Jake Elman and Matt Wilson dissect the previous day’s FAU football game in a feature we call “Four Down Territory.” Here’s our analysis of FAU’s 63-7 loss to Kansas St.
King: The total ineptitude of FAU’s offense. Injuries have made a mess of the offensive line. Receivers are dropping passes. Quarterback Jason Driskel is struggling with accuracy and looks flustered. Three games into the season FAU has no identity on offense. The Owls have only run 11 plays inside the opponents red zone all season. Somewhere Brian Wright is chuckling.
Elman: How lethargic the Owls looked from the second the game kicked off. Fine, they lost to Miami a week ago and fine, they’re now just leaving Florida for the first time this season, but who came in expecting a 56 point loss? It’s easy to look at this team and say ‘eh, they’re not that good’, but this is a talented roster that is more than capable of hanging in with the big boys. Kansas State played a great game, but to enter the locker room at halftime down 42-0 just a week after keeping it close with Miami for the first 30 minutes speaks volumes about how the Owls view themselves right now. If next week sees the same result where players look like they’re ready to just quit and get back home, we could easily see the fans in South Florida boo Charlie Partridge and his team off the field – and no one would blame them at all.
Wilson: Buddy Howell’s lack of production. He was only able to run for 34 yards on 13 carries. He has not been held to these kinds of numbers all season. He was not a big factor. Partridge called him the main back earlier in the week and Kerrith Whyte upstaged him.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
King: Kansas St. running back Winston Dimel became the second ball carrier in as many weeks to score four TDs against FAU. Think Ball St.’s James Gilbert is looking forward to Saturday? For FAU, Kalib Woods has emerged as the Owls only true threat in the passing game. His 39-yard catch along the sideline that set up FAU’s lone score showed the ability to win a battle with a defensive back that the redshirt junior has often displayed in practice but has rarely been evident in games.
Elman: It may be easy to pick an offensive weapon like Winston Dimel and his four first-half scores, but I’m giving my Player of the Game to the entire Wildcats offensive line. Yes, there were a lot of penalties and yes, they weren’t perfect when flags weren’t being thrown, but when you manage to keep a quarterback upright and not let Trey Hendrickson or any of the other Owls pressure him, you deserve a pat on the back. Honestly, you could really point to Hendrickson being contained as a key reason why the Wildcats tore into FAU for 60 minutes; the defense rides on the star defensive end and when he’s struggling, the rest of the team will struggle.
Wilson: Dimel was the second back in as many weeks to run for four touchdowns against the FAU defense. He only ran the ball 5 times for 19 yards but he put up as many touchdowns as Howell has on the year.
King: Fans filled social media with calls for Daniel Parr to replace Driskel at QB, but Charlie Partridge made the right decision by sticking with Driskel as long as he did. The coaches clearly feel that Driskel is the better quarterback and FAU has to figure out how to make this offense work. Driskel and that unit need all the practice they can get. Parr played nearly the entire fourth quarter but didn’t show much that would indicate he should supplant Driskel. Will Partridge re-visit the quarterback battle this week? It’s possible, but Driskel should be the one who starts against Ball St.
Elman: This could fall more into the biggest surprise as well, but why would Partridge risk injury to his starters by playing them to start the second half? Down 42-0 in a non-conference game, wouldn’t it have made more sense to call on Daniel Parr, Motor Singletary, and other backups to take the snaps for the rest of the second half? Not only does it help with their development and get them in-game reps, but it saves guys like Driskel and Howell from potentially sustaining an injury in a blowout loss that means nothing other than fighting for pride; but what’s more important going into the start of Conference USA play come week five: pride that you didn’t give in against a non-conference opponent, or having to start second and third string guys because you kept the starters in for nothing?
Wilson: Not putting in Parr earlier. The game was over half way through the first half. Driskel was getting banged up. Partridge and offensive coordinator Travis Trickett should have put in the young gun Parr and let him get some reps. When the game is a blowout, most people give the young guys a chance. Parr was not able to go in until the 4th quarter. Parr should have been put in earlier so he can see and develop.
King: It’s early in the season, but Saturday’s game against Ball St. (2-1) is the most important game of Charlie Partridge’s coaching career. FAU looked bad in losses against Miami and Kansas St., but those losses were expected. If FAU defeats Ball St. the Owls will enter Conference USA play at 2-2 – well positioned for a run at bowl eligibility. A win over the Cardinals will quiet detractors who are hitting social media hard. A loss to the Cardinals could signal another lost season for the Owls.
Elman: It’s been only three games and I don’t want to enter panic mode yet, but I think we’ve hit the point where we could see someone take a fall soon. The Owls have played twelve quarters in 2016 and only two of those – the second half of the season opener – has seen FAU operate on all cylinders and do their jobs, especially on offense. Through three games, the Owls have let up 30 points or more each time out despite a defense full of playmakers. We have one more week of pre-Conference USA play and if FAU enters week five with a 1-3 record, changes may really need to be made if this team and program are serious about contention.
Wilson: The Owls have not shown that they can compete on offense with any team. The defense has been decent but when they are on the field for two thirds of the game, they get tired. Next week against Ball State may be the make-or-break moment for Driskel. If he cannot produce against a not-so-good Ball State, do not be shocked if Partridge and Trickett call on Parr to start the rest of the season.