Ball St. (2-1, 0-0 MAC)
vs. FAU (1-2, 0-0 C-USA)
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: Howard Schnellenberger Field
- Radio: ESPN West Palm (106.3 FM)
- Scouting the Cardinals: BallStateSports.com
Key for the Owls: Get into an early offensive flow. FAU needs something to go right in order to get some confidence back. While a long Jason Driskel-to-Pico Harrison hook-up or an explosive run by Buddy Howell, Kerrith Whyte or Devin Singletary would be useful, what the Owls really need is a methodical 10-play drive. If FAU wins the toss, take the ball and go.
Key for the Cardinals: Contain Buddy Howell. Most of Howell’s numbers aren’t outstanding. He’s averaging 4.9 yards per carry, but remove his three long TD runs and that average dips closer to 2.0 He hasn’t surpassed the 100-yard mark since Week 1. Howell does have those four touchdowns, though. Three of them have come on runs longer than 35 yards. If Ball St. doesn’t let Howell get rolling, FAU has yet to show it can be effective through the air.
Key Match-up: Ball St. offensive line vs. FAU defensive line. FAU lost Trevon Coley and Brandin Bryant from last season’s team to graduation. The Owls lost another defensive tackle, Ray Ellis, for the season to a knee injury early in fall camp. Current defensive tackles Stephen Leggett, Shalom Ogbonda, Kevin McCrary, Will Davis, Josh Kendell and Denzel Whitfield have combined for 16 tackles on the season. Ball St. is averaging 219.3 yards per game, which is actually less than the 307.5 average the Owls allowed over their last two games. If the Cardinals can run the ball, this will be a long day for the Owls.
Player to Watch: On Thursday Matt Wilson wrote about Kerrith Whyte’s intent to find the end zone against Ball St. A good afternoon from Whyte, whether it’s out of the backfield or on special teams, should bode well for the Owls. Remember, Whyte can also be a dangerous weapon in the passing game.
Three and Out: FAU has been nothing short of terrible on third downs, converting only 24 percent (12-of-51) of their opportunities – only three teams at the FBS level are worse. Offensive coordinator Travis Trickett says the Owls’ struggles on third down trace back to the two largely ineffective plays that have brought about the third down. “We have got to do a better job of getting first downs,” Trickett said. “You get first downs, then your shots come up. Then you do your designed shots.”
Linebacker Rotation: An injury suffered against Miami kept Khantrell Burden out of the Kansas St. game. He is expected to return to the starting lineup on Saturday, but he may not last long there. True freshman Rashad Smith recorded five tackles against Kansas St. and is impressing with his progress. Smith is definitely pushing Burden and could take over Burden’s starting spot.
Double Vision: FAU is needlessly setting itself up for a special teams penalty with all the duplicate numbers currently on its roster. The NCAA permits two players to have the same number (usually one on offense and one on defense), but two players wearing the same number can’t be on the field at the same time without drawing a penalty. Generally, when that happens it’s on special teams. Henry Bussey and Ocie Rose share No. 1. Tyler Cameron and Shelton Lewis share No. 3. Devin Singletary and D.J. Juste share No. 5. Each of the first 10 numbers has a doppleganer. Whitfield can’t be on the field (without temporarily donning a different jersey) if Greg Joseph is kicking off or kicking field goals. If kicker Landon Scheer ever gets in a game, Kamrin Solomon has to be on the sidelines. It’s a silly risk to take, really.
Drawn and Quartered: FAU has played 12 quarters of football entering Saturday’s game. The Owls held the lead after only two of them – the third and fourth quarters of the victory over Southern Illinois. The third quarter of that game is the only quarter all year that the Owls have outscored their opponent. It’s difficult to win games without winning a few quarters along the way.