The defensive bell, similar to a ringside boxing bell, made its debut during the second half of last season but remained silent during FAU’s non-conferene schedule.
“Once I hear it I know it’s time to get back on the field and work,” defensive back James Pierre said. “Answer the bell every time.”
A member of the equipment staff rings the bell on the sideline every time FAU’s defense takes the field.
After FAU surrendered an average of 43.5 points through the season’s first four games, the bell reappeared on the sideline for the Owls’ Conference USA opener at MTSU.
In the two games that followed, one loss and one win, the Owls only allowed 29 points per game – still high, but an improvement. The Owls also started producing turnovers, something that had been missing earlier in the season. Facing Oklahoma and UCF, two of the top offenses nationally during those first four games and not the last two surely skewed those statistics, but there remains room for improvement.
“We just tried anything to stop somebody,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “After a couple weeks ago, I think it was going to the Middle Tennessee game, we really struggled, just brought it back, answer the bell, go on the road. This is going to be a tough game. At times we did [answer the bell] in that game on defense. We screwed that game up on offense.”
The 25 points FAU allowed in the loss to MTSU are the fewest the Owls allowed all season. Old Dominion scored 33 points the following week, but the Owls defeated the Monarchs thanks to a much better offensive performance.
Only two Conference USA teams allow more than 36.7 points per game the Owls surrender. Old Dominion is the lone C-USA team allowing more than the 459.6 yards per game FAU gives up. And FAU’s veteran secondary is still allowing 275 yards per game through the air.
Those statistics leave FAU coaches’ heads ringing.
“There’s a lot or really glaring defensive numbers that are, you don’t like the math regardless of who we played.” Kiffin said.
So if the bell gives FAU some extra juice, the players are all for it.
“It just means, Let’s go. It’s time to run,” linebacker Rashad Smith said.
And the Owls defenders don’t need to be one of the 11 on the field to respond to the bell.
Special teams standout Akileis Leroy, a linebacker by trade who boasts eight special teams tackles, most often hears the bell as he’s coming to the sideline following a special teams assignment.
“When I hear it coming off the field it’s like, I keep that sound in my head every time,” Leroy said. “It’s a different mindset. It gives me that fourth quarter mindset every time. It may be the first, second, third quarter, every time I hear the bell that means finish the fourth quarter.”