Two weeks - two blowout losses. The Florida Atlantic Owls are off to a sluggish start to their 2014 campaign and will look to right the ship at home this weekend against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane (one of my favorite college football nicknames) come to Boca fresh off a whooping by Oklahoma. That performance led to 580 yards of total offense for the Sooners last week, comparable to the 620 yards the Alabama Crimson Tide laid upon FAU. Something's gotta give for these two Group of Five programs as we take a look at the five keys for the Owls to pull out a victory in their home opener:
1.) Commit To The Run
Florida Atlantic is no stranger to the run game, but this key is more about exploiting Tulsa than sticking to a game-plan. The Golden Hurricane have let up more than 250 yards on the ground in their first two games this year. Oklahoma's Alex Ross and Keith Ford ran for nearly 90 yards each last week against Tulsa and combined for three touchdowns. With multiple athletes capable of breaking off significant runs, the Owls really have no choice but to commit to the ground game. Even if quarterback Jaquez Johnson is unable to start for FAU, look for Greg Hankerson to hand the ball off early and often to establish the run.
2.) Keep Getting Lucky
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, there is one man that has been essential to Florida Atlantic's offensive attack this season. Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead has shined bright for an Owl offense that has only mustered one touchdown in two games so far. Besides that sole touchdown for FAU, Lucky has reeled in eleven catches for 82 yards on the season. Now that the two blowouts are out of the way, Florida Atlantic is free to open up the playbook to it's full capacity. Expect Whitehead to be on the receiving end of many bubble screens, jet sweeps and maybe even a trick play or two.
3.) Cause Turnovers
The identity of Florida Atlantic's defense last season was centered around their ability to force turnovers. Senior D'Joun Smith intercepted seven passes for the Owls and will "probably" start this weekend. Smith's appearance on the depth chart for FAU will be a huge plus for a defensive unit that is left reeling following two blowout losses and a season-ending injury to sophomore Reggie Brown. Although the Owls have only caused one turnover so far this season, that could change against Tulsa's quarterback, Dane Evans, who has already thrown four interceptions this year. The Florida Atlantic secondary will need to revert back to their ball-hawking ways if they want to cause mayhem for the Golden Hurricane offense.
4.) Win The Field Position Battle
With a completely revamped special teams unit, FAU has already displayed coach Charlie Partridge's emphasis on the return game through their first two contests. Lucky Whitehead and Martese Jackson looked better than average against a strong Alabama unit, and the team's overall performance has truly passed the eye test for the first time in a long time. Whitehead is not only important to the FAU offense, but the Owls will need the extra boost he provides on special teams.
5.) Get Back On Track
The final key to FAU's success on Saturday is less of a tangible one. Simply, the Owls need to look past their previous two defeats that saw them get crushed by overpowering opponents and focus on Tulsa. This is Partridge's first home game as a head coach, and it would mean a great deal to see the team fulfill the promises he made to the fanbase in the off-season. The true season begins on Saturday and the Owls know that. Now, the boys from Boca will have to buckle down and prove to #OwlNation that there's still time to hop back on the bandwagon.