With an unfavorable result, the Florida Atlantic Owls still made #OwlNation proud on Saturday against Marshall. The final score was an "F-", but not every position unit was a negative. I sat alone at a Miami Ale House and converted the locals to throw their #OwlsUp while grading FAU's performance:
Saturday's game was as close to the big stage as this year's FAU team will get. While some positions didn't rise to the occasion (*cough* Defense *cough*), Jaquez Johnson brought his "A" game to West Virginia. 179 yards and one touchdown on 19 completions and 61 yards on 16 carries led to a pedestrian stat line, but Quez truly proved his worth in the execution of their game plan. The Owls knew they had to slow the tempo of the game down and while they still went no huddle for a few plays, Johnson paced the offense to nearly 37 minutes of possession. That appeared to be the most difficult part of the #BeatMarshall process, but the Owls executed it to near perfection and Quez was the clear driving force behind its success.
Running Back: B+
Talk about a true running back-by-committee approach. Four Owl running backs had at least two carries and we even saw the uber-fun LUCKY WHITEHEAD JET SWEEP. Greg Howell led the way with 22 carries for 92 yards and it appears that he will receive the bulk of the backfield action for the remainder of the season. This "B+" grade not only includes the dedication to slowing down the game speed, but it also reflects my thoughts on highlighting Howell from here on out. He will be a gem for this team and I'm glad the staff realizes his potential.
Wide Receiver: C+
Now, this score may be reflected more on the scheme than on individual performance. Only one Owl receiver stood out to me on Saturday (besides Alex Deleon's touchdown steal) and that was Lucky Whitehead. Finishing the day with 11 catches for 102 yards, Lucky was all over the Marshall defense. The Thundering Herd let him run loose and the shifty Whitehead took advantage en route to his second 100-yard performance of the season. William Dukes and Jenson Stoshak reverted back to their sluggish form that started the season, but once again, this unit was mostly affected by FAU's commitment to the run early.
Offensive Line: A
Leading the way for FAU's ground attack was a truly great performance from the offensive line. Joe Gold, a true freshman, has stepped in at center and performed admirably for the Owls. Two sacks prevented this grade from being bumped to an "A+", but against one of the better defensive units in the conference, the young Owl line (Reginald Bain is also a freshman and really good at footballing) continued to open up lanes for Quez and the committee of running backs.
Defensive Line: C
Let's just not talk about Devon Johnson here. The Marshall running back was special on Saturday. That's it. No more. Ok, so the FAU defensive line couldn't stop the Marshall ground attack, led by Devon Jo... Ugh, darn. Each of Johnson's spectacular runs were a product of complete defense ineptitude, but it began with the line. I will commend this unit for picking up the pace as the game went on, but overall, this wasn't even close to last week's showing.
And it just keeps getting worse. Just as Devon Johnson jolted the defensive line en route to three huge scores, his next level of wide open greenery came in the form of FAU's linebacker zone. Andrae Kirk always does his thing and I don't doubt the effort put in by the entire unit, but this was another forgettable performance. There are easier teams on the docket and these guys will definitely regroup.
First, the Conference USA referees are garbage. Terrible. Awful. A complete waste of the improved talent that is being displayed in this year's conference play. With that said, they screwed D'Joun Smith on two separate Pass Interference calls that would have stopped one drive and became an interception on the other. Once again, referring back to Devon Johnson's career day, absolutely no one was behind the line to stop him on any of his scores. I don't know if you can pin this on one player, but the whole unit gets knocked a letter grade for each boneheaded mishap.
Special Teams: A-
D'Joun Smith's 202 kick return yards against #Marshall broke #FAU's individual and Team records of 168 & 182 yards collectively. #Brightspot— The Owl's Nest (@TheOwlsNest_ITB) October 26, 2014
Some team by the name of "Florida Atlantic" has *made* two field goals today. Clearly something is not right here.— Sway (@Gonswaga) October 25, 2014
Unfortunately, with great execution and a solid running game, the Owls still weren't able to overcome Rakeem Cato and the Thundering Herd. It was a total four-quarter performance for Marshall, and while FAU started strong, the depth was too much to overcome. Florida Atlantic heads back to Boca for homecoming to take on a surprising UAB squad. The Owls fall to 3-5 on the year and 2-2 in the conference.