BOCA RATON – Though it only rained for about three minutes of the nearly three-hours worth of weather delays, Lane Kiffin’s debut as FAU’s coach was nonetheless a washout.
Fewer than 100 fans remained in the stands for the final plays of FAU’s 42-19 loss to Navy.
“That was pretty embarrassing,” Kiffin said of the Owls’ performance. “I feel like there was so much buildup to the game around here, with the fans around the school, and energy. I really feel like we let them down. We have a lot of work to do.”
The few of the 28,481 announced fans in attendance that stayed through the Owls’ first half struggles exited during one of the three fourth-quarter lightning delays that combined lasted nearly three hours.
The third delay came seconds after the Owls took the field to warm-up after the second one. The game ended shortly before the 2 a.m. mandatory last call within the city.
Kiffin said he never considered calling off the final quarter of the game.
“I don’t know any other other way to do it,” Kiffin said. “I thought we were still going to win.”
Fans expecting to see a brand new team under Kiffin, one that boasted a flashy, high scoring offense and an attacking defense designed to limit explosive plays were disappointed.
Daniel Parr, who won the three-way quarterback battle over De’Andre Johnson and Jason Driskel, stretched the defense with touchdown strikes of 95 and 62 yards but mostly piloted a clunky offense that spent nearly half its time throwing passes that went for losses.
Parr completed 19 of 30 passes for 281 yards. He threw one of the two FAU interceptions.
“I think he was alright,” Kiffin said. I don’t think he was our issue. He didn’t play great, but he also didn’t put us in a position to lose.”
Johnson played sparingly, igniting the offense almost exclusively by running the football. Driskel, last year’s starter, never saw the field.
Navy scored first when quarterback Zach Abey’s 36-yard run set up Tre Walker’s four-yard TD run on the Midshipmen’s initial drive. Parr’s first career touchdown pass, a 95-yarder to true freshman Willie Wright midway through the second quarter, gave the the Owls their first lead of the game, 10-7. The hook-up is the longest in FAU history.
The Midshipmen promptly silenced a roaring crowd, with two more touchdowns before the half. The first came on Abey’s 40-yard run. The second was set up by an 56-yard Abey-to-Tyler Carmona pass in the closing seconds that gave Navy the ball at the 9. Three plays later Joshua Walker raced around left end and ducked inside the pylon to give Navy a 21-10 halftime lead.
FAU faced a fourth and fourth-and-six at its own 39 when the first lightning delay halted the game before the first play of the fourth quarter. The Owls went for the first down when play resumed but Pico Harrison dropped a Parr pass that would have been a first down.
One play later Abey drove a stake through FAU’s collective heart with a 39-yard TD pass to Darryl Bonner that put Navy up 42-13.
The Owls pulled within 42-19 on Parr’s 62-yard hook-up with DeAndre McNeal but before the Owls could attempt the two-point conversion the second weather delay struck.
GameBrowser: Navy 42, FAU 19
TURNING POINT: Moments after Daniel Parr connected with Willie Wright for a 95-yard touchdown that gave FAU a 10-7 lead, Navy marched right back down the field and re-took the lead for good. Zach Abey’s 40-yard touchdown run up the middle gave the Midshipment a 14-10 advantage and they never looked back.
- Onlookers who didn’t know that this was Lane Kiffin’s first game could have been forgiven for thinking this was still part of the Charlie Partridge era. The offense sputtered, the defense struggled to tackle and the Owls even gave up a score in the closing seconds of the first half.
- Kiffin may want to re-think his decision to stay away from the playcalling. FAU has two of the best running backs in Conference USA, and maybe the FBS level, yet the Owls handed the ball off only four times in the first half. None of those carries went to Buddy Howell.
- Meanwhile, FAU insisted on throwing the ball from hash mark to the sidelines – resulting in a ridiculous amount of completed passes that went for no gain or even losses. When the Owls threw the ball downfield they enjoyed some success – see the long touchdowns to Wright and McNeal – but too often the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page.
- De’Andre Johnson was electric with the ball in his hands, rushing for 31 yards, but it was clear that the undisclosed injury that’s plagued him for the past three weeks is keeping him from throwing the ball. FAU needed to take him out of the game in passing situations. Johnson completed two of his three passes for five yards. The third toss was an underthrown interception.
- The risk of playing late afternoon or night games in September or even early October is that there are always storms in the area. Remember the 2015 Miami game played on a Friday night? A weather delay that produced no rain drove away a packed house in the first half of that game. It barely rained during Friday’s weather delays. FAU needs to reconsider their game times before these showcase games become no-show games.
3 – Errant snaps that halted promising drives.
4 – Rushing attempts by running backs in the first half.
4 – Penalties committed by FAU. Navy, which led the nation last season by committing only 2.8 per game, was flagged twice.
40 – Total rushing yards. The Owls lost 47 yards on the poor snaps alone.
54 – Yard field goal kicked by Greg Joseph in the first half, the longest in program history.
88 – Receiving yards for De’Andre McNeal on four catches.
234 – Total points scored by Joseph in his career. He passed Mark Myers with that 54-yard field goal. That field goal also gave him the most, 44, in FAU history, once again passing Myers. His second-quarter extra point also tied Myers for most PATs in program history at 102.
416 – Rushing yards for Navy. The Midshipmen managed 526 yards of total offense.
“We played really poorly in all three phases – especially in one.” – Lane Kiffin
UP NEXT: FAU travels to No. 9 Wisconsin on Sept. 9 for its first road game of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon.