Despite being in command for the majority of the game, FAU’s nine-game winning streak over Conference USA opponents is over, as Middle Tennessee defeated FAU 25-24. Facing fourth and goal from the one-yard line, Tavares Thomas scored a touchdown with 38 seconds left to put MTSU within a point. Rather than play for overtime, Rick Stockstill decided to go for the win. Brent Stockstill threw up a prayer that ended up being answered as Gatlin Casey made a tough catch in traffic to give the Blue Raiders a win in the conference opener.
It should have never come down to this. FAU opened the game looking like the team that dominated C-USA last season, as the Owls led 14-0 after the first quarter thanks to two Devin Singletary rushing touchdowns. Despite having two weeks to prepare, MTSU came out flat and lethargic.
Leading 14-0 with the offense on the field in the second quarter, it was over. Leading 24-10 with the offense on the field in the third quarter, it was over. Leading 24-17 with the offense on the field in the game’s final minutes, it was supposed to be over. Done. A touchdown here, a first down there, and this game is over. But that didn’t happen. Throughout the game, FAU failed to connect the knockout blow, allowing Middle Tennessee to hang around before the Blue Raiders ultimately took advantage.
Brent Stockstill had a gutsy performance, throwing for 259 yards and one touchdown, while adding a surprising 56 yards on the ground.
Despite giving up the go-ahead score, the defense played well enough to win the game. The two touchdown drives allowed in the second half was the result of poor field position due to special teams, as MTSU needed less than 45 yards to reach the end zone on each drive. The defense had their best performance of the season, as they forced a season-high two turnovers.
This loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the special teams, a unit that took a huge step back after last week’s performance against UCF, and the offense.
In the second half, FAU scored three points while gaining 125 yards. The MTSU game plan was simple: stack the box and force Chris Robison to beat you over the top. Unable to continuously outflank MTSU on the perimeter with Willie Wright on jet sweeps and Harrison Bryant/John Raine in the flats, Robison needed to connect on vertical routes and it didn’t happen. Robison finished 17-of-27 with 154 yards and one interception, while adding 59 yards and one TD on the ground.
A month into the season and the offense is a huge question mark, from the play calling to the OL play to the QB. If Devin Singletary isn’t having a monster day on the ground, and Jovon Durante and Willie Wright are unable to consistently reach the edge on jet sweeps, the offense doesn’t find success.
Robsion isn’t the dual threat Jason Driskel was last season, and it’s fair to wonder whether or not the offense would be more successful with De’Andre Johnson as the starter. Devin Singletary rushed for 118 yards but needed 34 carries to do so. With Johnson as the QB, perhaps those rushing lanes are bit wider.
After a letdown loss like this, Lane Kiffin and the FAU Owls have a lot of soul searching to do this week as the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
At 2-3 with an 0-1 record in conference play, FAU will face an improving Old Dominion team at home. Middle Tennessee moves to a 2-2, 1-0 record with the win and will have a huge road game against Marshall next week.