FAU punt returner/wide receiver Dante Cousart will remain in the Huntington, W. Va. at least overnight and maybe a couple of days after suffering an injury that coach Lane Kiffin said will require surgery.
Cousart, a redshirt junior, incurred a lower leg injury while returning a punt five yards to the FAU 20 late in the third quarter of the Owls’ 31-7 loss at Marshall.
Teammates had to carry Cousart to the sideline, where he was then carted to the locker room. Not long after Cousart exited the stadium on a cart.
The return was Cousart’s second of the game and fourth of the season. It was also his longest of the year.
With starting punt returner Jalen Young also ailing, Willie Wright returned three fourth-quarter punts for a total of 13 yards.
“We got pretty beat up today, especially on offense,” Kiffin said.
Quarterback Chris Robison and wide receiver Jovon Durate were among those forced to leave the game because of injury.
No injury, however, will have a bigger long term impact on the Owls than the loss of defensive leader Azeez Al-Shaair. The preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year tore his ACL during Tuesday’s practice.
Following the loss to Marshall, Kiffin addressed the injury publicly for the first time.
“Very difficult this week in practice,” Kiffin said. “We got results back. ACL done for the year. Our hearts go out to him. It stinks for him, but our guys kind of rose to the occasion on that side of the ball and played well.”
Andrew Soroh drew the start in place of Al-Shaair and led FAU with a career-high 13 tackles, including one sack.
GameBrowser: Marshall (5-2, 3-1) 31, FAU (3-4, 1-2) 7
TURNING POINT: Trailing 17-7 a little past the midpoint of the third quarter, Lane Kiffin elected to try to convert a fourth-and-one from the Owls’ own 13. Kerrith Whyte raced to the right side, where a host of Marshall players smothered him for no gain. Marshall took over possession and scored on the ensuing play. Afterward, Kiffin defended the decision. “To punt the ball into that wind for 30 yards doesn’t make a whole lot of difference,” Kiffin said. “We needed a spark and weren’t playing very well on offense.”
- Teams have done a better job this season of limiting Devin Singletary’s running room, but he’s always been able to find the end zone. Marshall completely shut down Singletary, limiting him to 39 yards on 16 carries. Singletary didn’t score a touchdown for the first time in 20 consecutive games – a Conference USA record. Defenses are going to continue to key on Singletary until the passing game shows it can win a game.
- In all four of its losses this season FAU has struggled on third down. That held true again on Saturday, when the Owls only converted three of their 17 third down attempts. “I’ve never seen 3-of-17 on third downs – if you combine fourth downs, 4-of-21,” Kiffin said. “You’re not going to win any games like that.”
- Kerrith Whyte returned three kickoffs for a total of 68 yards, making him FAU’s career leader in kick return yards. The redhsirt junior passed both Willie Floyd and DiIvory Edgecomb on Saturday, and now has 1,955 kickoff return yards in his career.
- For a while this looked to be a strong special teams performance – certainly the best of the year for FAU. Whyte broke the kick return yard record, Jalen Young deflected a kick that fell short of the crossbar, Robison booted a 63-yard punt and even Sebastian Riella averaged a respectable 44.5 yards on his punts with a long of 58. But two hooked field goals by Vladi Rivas were spirit killers for the Owls. Winning teams don’t miss those.
- FAU’s defense played with more ferocity, but the two areas they’ve been struggling with all season once again proved problematic for the Owls. Despite being around the quarterback all afternoon the Owls only managed three sacks. And only .5 of those sacks were credited to a defensive lineman (Ray Ellis), meaning the Owls had to rely on the blitz, not their front four, to create pressure. FAU also failed to create a turnover at Marshall.
3 – First half turnovers committed by FAU, two interceptions and one fumble.
4 – Interceptions thrown by Chris Robison. He’s now thrown 10 interceptions against only eight TDs.
8 – Tackles credited to Andrew Soroh in the first half, including one sack. Soroh started in place of Azeez Al-Shaair.
12 – Tackles on the day by linebacker Rashad Smith. who was everywhere on Saturday.
17 – Rushing yards on eight first-half carries by Devin Singletary.
40 – Yards rushing for Kerrith Whyte to lead the Owls. His 29-yard run on third and 11 set up the Owls’ lone touchdown. Whyte also had a costly first-half fumble.
233 – Rushing yards for Marshall, with much of that coming late against a worn-out FAU defense.
359 – Yards of total offense for FAU. Marshall only managed 335.
UP NEXT: FAU returns home for a Friday night game against Louisiana Tech. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the game will air on CBSSN.