The Florida Atlantic Owls opened up their 2014 season with a 55 - 7 loss at Nebraska. Despite opening the game with a 75 yard drive and a touchdown, the Owls only mustered up 200 total yards on the day. The Huskers scored on four of their first five drives and never looked back.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr completed 15 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns and remained comfortable throughout the game. A strong Husker offensive line paved the way for running back Ameer Abdullah to rack up 227 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. The Huskers appeared flustered in their first few drives due to penalties, but a perfect third-down conversion rate in the first half helped them get back on track.
Despite the lopsided score, running back Jay Warren led the Owls on the ground with 78 yards on 13 carries. The sophomore had a few excellent plays near the end of the game and helped FAU re-establish the run after moving away from their initial game plan. Warren's abilities proved too little, too late as the Owls slipped to a six touchdown deficit. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson rushed for 19 yards on four carries and threw for a touchdown before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injured left shoulder. Johnson was replaced by sophomore Greg Hankerson, who had trouble establishing a rhythm early and only threw for 34 yards.
One Owl showed promise in multiple areas on Saturday. Lucky Whitehead led the Owls with 40 yards and one touchdown on five catches. In a game with many negatives for Florida Atlantic, Whitehead was a breathe of fresh air on offense and special teams, averaging 35 yards per return. Nebraska nearly ran for 500 yards and even broke the record for most yards allowed by FAU with 779. The Owls will look to get healthy and head to Tuscaloosa for a match-up with the Crimson Tide on Saturday, September 6.
- Lucky Whitehead has really separated himself from the pack as a kick returner and pass catcher. I expected big things from Lucky going into this season and it looks like he should have a break-out year if he remains healthy.
- Speaking of injuries, Jaquez Johnson left the game early with an injured left shoulder. We can expect Quez to suit up for the Alabama game, but if he can't, Greg Hankerson will get the start. While Johnson did have a few shining moments against a stout Nebraska defense, he did have a few throws leaving much to be desired.
- Hankerson was also all over the place through the air and I would even go as far as to say that he appeared "uncomfortable" running the offense. As a second-year back-up, you would like to see him have a tighter grasp of the offense by this point, but the play calling may need to be dialed back if he has to start against the Crimson Tide.
- Jay Warren and Tony Moore were serviceable as a running back tandem. I would like to see Moore get a few more carries, but Warren really shone after the game had already gotten out of hand.
- Everyone expected the run defense to struggle against Ameer Abdullah, but the miscues by the defensive backs were extremely uncharacteristic. Cre'von Leblanc was blown up over the top repeatedly and D'Joun Smith was thrown at successfully from the front series on. Smith left the game in the third quarter with an injury and is expected to play against Alabama.
- I have never seen Nebraska's kick-off "shoe removal" done before and it was a bit surprising. I have participated in some long tailgates in sweaty south Florida and can only imagine what a section full of shoes in the air can smell like. Also, I did not expect Jordan Westerkamp to perform as well as he did, but heading into Week Two, he will have the best catch in college football and a slightly creepy mustache.