Playing without defensive leader Azeez Al-Shaair, the Conference USA preseason Defensive Player of the Year, the Owls actually played arguably their best defensive game of the season only to see miscue after miscue by the offense doom the afternoon.
The loss dropped FAU to 3-4 on the season and 1-2 in Conference USA play, almost certainly ending any hope the Owls had at repeating as Conference USA champs.
“Obviously we didn’t play very well today,” Lane Kiffin told ESPN West Palm’s postgame show. “Defense did a good job today at times.
The seven points were the lowest output of the Lane Kiffin era. The Owls hadn’t been held to single digits since managing only three against Western Kentucky in 2016.
“That’s about as bad as we’ve played on offense since we’ve been here,” Kiffin said. “Definitely the worst we’ve played in conference.”
Chris Robison didn’t play as badly as his four interceptions would indicated – a couple of them were tipped into the hands of a defender and a third came on a desperation heave near the end of the half – but he still only managed to lead the Owls to one touchdown drive, which culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant.
Robison completed 18 of 25 passes for 223 yards, but had at least one and likely two touchdowns dropped by receiver Jovon Durante.
The Owls actually out-gained Marshall (5-2, 3-1) 359 to 335 on the afternoon but couldn’t finish drives.
FAU did have a couple scoring opportunities in the second half, only to watch redshirt freshman kicker Vladi Rivas hook two separate field goal attempts outside the left upright.
FAU needed a better game from Robison because the Thundering Herd absolutely smothered Devin Singletary, limiting him to only 39 yards on 16 carries. For the first time in 20 games, Singletary did not find the end zone.
Even with all their issues, FAU only trailed 17-7 in the third quarter when Lane Kiffin elected to try to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-one from the Owls’ own 13. Multiple Marshall defenders cut off Whyte’s run to the sideline, stopping him short of the first down.
One play later, Marshall quarterback Alex Thomson connected with Armani Levias for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 6:18 remaining in third. FAU never truly threatened again.
Already without their leader, FAU suffered other key injuries on Saturday. Robison had to leave the game for a possession in the fourth quarter after injuring his ankle. He returned for one ineffective series with the ankle heavily taped, but ceded the position after that.
Both DeAndre Johnson and Rafe Peavey had their turns behind center in the fourth quarter but neither moved the offense.
“Chris got hurt there,” Kiffin said. “The other guys gave it a shot. I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.”
Late in the game Durante, who caught seven passes for 114 yards in his return to the state of West Virginia where his college career began, left with an apparent lower body injury and did not return. Shortly before that punt returner Daunte Cousart needed to be carted out of the stadium with a lower leg injury.
Defensively, senior safety Jalen Young, who was bothered by a knee injury early in the season, had to be helped off the field multiple times in the second half.
The loss for FAU was its fourth in as many road games this season.