After laying a huge egg in the season opener against No. 5 Oklahoma, it looked like FAU was going to to give us another dud on the big stage as they trailed UCF 14-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Rather than fold, the Owls instead responded with 17 straight points, outplaying UCF for most of the second quarter. FAU looked like the team many of us expected, swarming to the ball on defense and using explosive plays on offense.
Unfortunately FAU only played like that for a quarter, as UCF would gain 546 yards on offense and extend the longest winning streak in the nation to 16, with a 56-36 win.
Despite the 20-point loss, there was some positives in this game. Devin Singletary certainly looks like he has his mojo back after a quiet start to the season, as he rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns, achieving another milestone in the process.
Stat note: Motor's last rushing TD was the 53rd of his career, putting him on the top 25 all-time in FBS! Already the active leader in this category, he's tied with three others for 23rd now!— FAU Football (@FAU_Football) September 22, 2018
Special teams also improved, as Vladimir Rivas knocked in a 32-yard field goal to give FAU their only lead of the game right before the half. Kerrith Whyte Jr. was tremendous on kickoff returns as it felt like FAU constantly started across the 35-yard line and near midfield. Punting was also a strength, as Lane Kiffin called a fake punt that changed the momentum of the game, and the combined play of Chris Robison and Sebastian Riella did enough to ensure that UCF had poor field position.
Unfortunately it didn’t matter where UCF’s offense started as the defense simply could not contain them. I feared that the secondary would struggle mightily against UCF’s explosive weapons and that turned out to be the case, as McKenzie Milton passed for 306 yards with six total touchdowns. UCF had four scoring drives that required them to go 60 yards or more down the field.
Leading 17-14 with all of the momentum, the FAU defense trotted on the field with around 1:30 left in the half. The Knights marched down the field in no time. In five plays UCF was already in the end zone, as McKenzie Milton connected with Marlon Williams from 21 yards out to give UCF a 21-17 lead at the half, a lead they would hold for good.
It was a near perfect performance for the Knights as they committed zero turnovers, and were a perfect 6-of-6 in the red zone.
Against an offense of this caliber, FAU had no room for error and committed countless mistakes. Chris Robison was 13-of-26 with 124 yards for one touchdown and three interceptions. Robison’s three INTs were the only turnovers of the game, and each one was a product of not seeing the coverage, as his INTs were in double coverage.
Robison has a very high ceiling, but his decision making has to improve as FAU will have more hostile environments to overcome down the road. Defensively, the Owls must get better as there are a number of teams in Conference USA that can move the ball against this defense. The secondary especially must get better, as they were grossly out of position multiple times against UCF.
FAU had its moments, and certainly looked like they could perform well in conference play, but last night provided another example that FAU has a ways to go before becoming one of the best teams in country.
At 2-2, FAU will begin their quest to go back-to-back in Conference USA as they head to play a 1-2 Middle Tennessee team next Saturday. UCF will look to extend their winning streak at home against a Power Five team, as the ACC’s Pittsburgh Panthers will come to Orlando.