There’s an old sports cliche that goes offense sells tickets, defense wins games. Sometimes cliches ring true and on Saturday night in Boca Raton, that certainly was the case.
FAU defeated Middle Tennessee 28-13 behind the stingy play of their defense, and the solid play of their special teams.
The defense forced three turnovers, with Meiko Dotson leading the team with two interceptions. Rashad Smith was the other Owl with an INT.
In the first half FAU played your standard bend-don’t-break defense as Middle scored 13 points on 274 yards. Asher O’Hara did his best Johnny Manziel impression, extending plays with his legs and making something out of nothing when things looked poorly.
FAU’s offense looked clunky for the majority of the first half and couldn’t necessarily respond. Give credit to Middle’s defense for holding the Owls to 12 points as the Blue Raiders played tough. Reed Blakenship and Jovante Moffatt prevented Lane Kiffin from dialing up those large chunk plays he loves. By keeping everything in front of them, FAU had to build long sustaining drives and they unable to do so on a consistent basis.
In the second half though the FAU defense proved to be the best unit of the game as their play was the difference. The Owls outscored Middle 16-0 as Middle’s offense was held to 185 yards with a decent chunk coming in garbage time.
Much has been made about the special teams’ uneven performance this season but today they were just as impactful to the end result as the defense was. Vladimir Rivas was 2-for-2 on field goals with the longest being 37 yards (unfortunately he did miss an extra point).
After O’Hara found CJ Windham for a 30-yard touchdown for the first points of the game, FAU blocked the extra point as Akileis Leroy returned it for two points. This type of performance just didn’t happen last year, so today it was a welcomed sight considering the struggles from earlier in the season.
With the offense this season looking more like a unit that will run between mediocre and very good, the emergence of the defense under first-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has been dynamite. If the special teams can continue to play like they did today, Lane Kiffin might take a page out of Nick Saban’s playbook and try to win games by running the ball and playing great defense and special teams.
Although the offense didn’t have their best day, they did exactly what they needed to do to secure the win as Chris Robison stayed away from turnovers, and the offensive line paved the way for an impressive performance on the ground. FAU rushed for 203 yards with 5.1 yards per carry.
Malcolm Davidson rushed for a team-high 149 yards with a personal-best 7.1 yards per carry. Davidson’s 57 yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the game away and boy was that run a thing of beauty as the offensive line opened a huge lane for him to burst through.
With the win, FAU extends their winning streak to four games and moves to 4-2, 2-0 on the season. Next up is a home game against Marshall. Middle Tennessee is now 2-4, 1-1 on the season and will head to Denton to play North Texas.