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BOCA RATON – The red team led by quarterback Chris Robison and the first-team defense earned a steak lunch with a victory over De’Andre Johnson’s white team, but both offense’s performance were far from well-done.
A windy day got the better of FAU’s quarterbacks as accuracy proved to be a problem throughout a game dominated by turnovers and disruptive defensive play.
Johnson tossed two interceptions – though one was negated because of a questionable sideline warning call. He also coughed up a fumble after getting stripped by safety Jalen Young who came free off the edge on a blitz.
That sideline warning call may have been the product of referee lobbying from head coach Lane Kiffin.
“Yeah, well we kind of cheated a little, trying to keep the fans around.” Kiffin said.
Officially the Red team won the game 20-14, stopping White on downs in the red zone with time running down to preserve the victory. Kiffin promised the winning team steak. The losing team will dine on hot dogs and beans at a Monday luncheon.
There were plenty of opportunities for big plays down the field that were missed because of passes being sailed over receiver’s heads or underthrown.
Kiffin said the offensive miscues may have resulted from the quarterbacks trying to do to much in an effort to separate as the clear starter.
“Throughout spring the energy, great competition, very competitive so that is great to see, exciting to watch – just not the execution that you want.” Kiffin said of the quarterback race.
The defense carried what they have brought all spring into FAU Stadium on Saturday: dominance. With 10 starters returning on that side of the ball, it is clear the winning formula for the 2018 season will be shutting down opposing offenses instead of outscoring them.
“We are a defensive team right now that has got to figure out how to form better in the passing game.” Kiffin said.
It wasn’t all bad for the passing game however; Johnson hit Jovon Durante with a perfectly placed 15-yard pass in the back of the end zone on a dig route and Robison threw a back shoulder dime to John Raine who was able to break free from a tackle and race to the end zone for a 30-yard score.
The white team was driving late in the second quarter trying to close a 17-0 first half gap. With just seconds remaining, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. decided to run the ball, nearly letting the clock expire. They were luckily awarded a timeout, and on the ensuing play Gerald Hearns punched in a one-yard touchdown.
Running back Devin Singletary, who led the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns last season, didn’t play in the game. He’s been limited the past couple weeks by a hamstring injury.
The white team was driving late in the second quarter trying to close a 17-0 first half gap. With only seconds remaining, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. decided to run the ball, nearly letting the clock expire. They were luckily awarded a timeout, and on the ensuing play Gerald Hearns punched in a one-yard touchdown.
Silver Saunders also scored on a one-yard plunge.
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Offensive MVP: Offensive MVP: Willie Wright. The speedy wide receiver was able to get open with ease and make plays most times the ball was thrown his way. His seven catches for 78 receiving yards didn’t tell the whole story though. FAU’s quarterbacks missed him on multiple deep throws and he drew a second quarter pass interference call that set up a Gerald Hearns touchdown right before the half.
Defensive MVP: Jalen Young. After racking up a team high seven interceptions last season, Young proved Saturday his nose for the football wasn’t limited to the air. The safety came off the edge unblocked on a blitz, sacked Johnson and forced a fumble that he picked up himself and returned for 20 yards before being tackled.
- Outside of two short touchdowns from Silver Saunders and Hearns, FAU struggled to move the ball on the ground. Fourth-and-short rushing attempts were stuffed in the backfield from both teams as the interior of the offensive line struggled to get push off the line of scrimmage in obvious running situations.
- The lack of a productive running game put more pressure on both quarterbacks to make plays through the air. Opposing defenses will try to do the same thing come the fall. The big difference will be that Devin Singletary will be in the backfield to carry the ball.
- Saturday’s offense didn’t much resemble the one that tore through Conference USA last season, but remember – the offense that tore through Conference USA last season looked abysmal last spring, too.
- The FAU defense found plenty of success blitzing from the secondary as offensive tackles were unable to adjust to the speed of the safeties and nickels rushing past them.
- As has been the case for most of the spring, tight ends were once again a focal point of FAU’s passing attack. Raine, Jacob Wilson and Logan Peterson were all trusted targets for Robison and Johnson. They constantly helped move the sticks on short to intermediate routes when other parts of the offense struggled to get going.
Key Absences: Devin Singletary sat out Saturday’s spring game with a hamstring injury. … Azeez Al-Shaair served as a player-coach, missing his second consecutive spring game as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery. … Harrison Bryant dressed for the game but was a non-participant. He went down with an injury in practice on Thursday. ,,,D’Anfernee McGriff didn’t dress for the game. A wide receiver and tight end last season, McGriff moved to running back this spring. It will be interesting to see which position he plays come fall. McGriff suffered an undisclosed injury two Saturdays ago during the scrimmage at Carter Park. …Tyrek Tisdale didn’t participate in contact drills all spring but he is expected to return for the fall and, if healthy, would be a strong candidate for the No. 2 running back spot.
Paul Silano contributed to this report