The Owls came out fast, establishing leads of 17-0 and 33-7 by the end of the first half, taking the Hurricane out of their comfort zone. The Owls secondary did a great job slowing down the Tulsa passing attack, while FAU passer Jaquez Johnson gutted the Tulsa unit. So, very much a case of live by the pass, die by the pass. Here's how everyone grades out.
Quarterbacks: I noted in the game preview that the Owls had one of the best secondaries in the G5, and that Evans would have his work cut out for him trying to navigate it. Turns out I was right, as Evans couldn't sustain drives, and didn't have a lot of success getting the ball down the field, instead hitting predominantly short passes. He completed 24 of 49 passes for 269 yards and a TD, but also threw 2 interceptions, one of which was returned for six points by D'Joun Smith. In his defense, he was sacked 4 times (including a safety), and pressured at least twice more, while tight coverage from the Owl pass defense saw a massive 10 passes broken up. Joseph Calcagni finished off the game, throwing 3 incompletions.
Running Backs: It's hard to judge the running backs harshly, as the offense needed to pass early to get back in the game. This was unfortunate, as there was some yards to be gained on the ground, and Zach Langer and James Flanders each had 9 carries for 48 yards, with Langer scoring a TD. In fact, take away the 4 sacks for 30 yards, and Tulsa had an okay 23 carries for 124 yards, number which could suggest better production in a different scenario. Flanders did cough up a fumble at the FAU 9-yard line, which will hurt their grade, but they were better than the stats suggest.
Receivers: After playing some good football over the last couple of weeks, Keevan Lucas was kept relatively quiet by the Owls, catching just 5 passes for 55 yards, although he caught a 33-yard pass to set up Tulsa's first score. Joshua Atkinson stepped up in his absence, catching 7 passes for 85 yards, while Keyarris Garrett and Conner Floyd combined for 8 receptions, 81 yards and a TD. Like Evans, the unit really struggled against the athletic FAU defense, who kept the Hurricane receivers from getting into a rhythm with their quarterback.
Offensive Line: I anticipated FAU would send much of their front seven in an effort to rattle Evans, while leaving their back four to fend for themselves. As it turns out, they just needed their line to get the job done. Four of their unit each had a sack, while Hendrickson got some further pressure in Evans. It has been noted here that the Tulsa line is young and learning, but that curve needs to steepen a little (lot) with the league schedule around the corner. On the flip side, the line did okay run blocking, but that was less of a factor as the game went on.
Defensive Line: The line did a solid job against the run, making it hard for the Owls to get much going on the ground. They gave up 177 yards on 42 carries, but 2 of those carries were for 33 yards by Jay Warren, and 47 yards by receiver Lucky Whitehead. It was heavy sledding otherwise for the FAU backfield, with Warren finishing with just 63 yards on 13 carries against a Hurricane defense that was recently vulnerable. They still gave up a couple of big runs, but were much better overall. Where they could have been much better was pass rushing, as they got little pressure on Johnson, and paid the price. Derrick Alexander and Chris Hummingbird combined for a sack, but that was as good as it got.
Linebackers: The best unit on the team this week, the linebackers made plays on the opposite side of the line this week. Trent Martin flashed his inner Shawn Jackson, finishing with 9 tackles, making 3 behind the line of scrimmage. Craig Suits was second in tackles with 10, and made 2 in the opponents backfield. Not only did the stars make the plays, but some of the reserves were coming off the bench to make plays too, as the front seven did a good job (mostly) against the run. Let's not mention pass coverage.
Secondary: Did these guys even show up? Well, we know Michael Mudoh did, as he made 14 tackles, while Demarco Nelson (4 tackles) was subpar after last week's concussion, but the unit was gutted by Johnson, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 318 yards and 3 TDs. He completed passes of 33 yards, 59 (twice, one for a TD), and 74, also for a TD, and most of FAU's third down failures were running plays. Sad. Very sad.
Special Teams: Let's start with the positives. Matt Hickman blocked a punt, while the kick coverage was top notch. The Hurricane purposefully kicked short, with some dynamic returners facing them, and the unit did it's job well. If only the same could be said for the punting unit. Dalton Parks was inconsistent, and the coverage gave up returns of 39 and 32 yards. Whitehead had the former, which he fumbled but FAU recovered, while Henry Bussey had the latter. Both set up scores. The kick returning was mediocre.
The Bottom Line: For the second week in a row, Tulsa gives up 50 points. While it borders on acceptable for the Hurricane to give up 50 points to a powerhouse like Oklahoma, to give up half a ton to the Owls, a team they're expected to beat as members of the AAC, shows that last season was less of an aberration than originally thought. With a week off before Texas State, Tulsa have some time to lick their wounds and get ready for another tough matchup. They need to iron out their wrinkles on offense and defense, or it could be another long day for the Hurricane.