FAU Football Fordham

The FAU football program extends its winning streak at FAU Stadium to 10 wins as they handle business against the Fordham Rams, 45-14. For head coach Willie Taggart, his home record is still undefeated at home with seven.

The game was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. but because of a lightning delay, the game started at 7:15. 

While the score will show a blowout, some concerns that the players and coaches have expressed were present here. So, a lot to like here from the Owls, but there are still aspects they need to clean up for Air Force next week and entering conference play. 

“We’re very excited about the win. (I) wasn’t really excited about how we started. I thought we were really sloppy on offense, missed a lot of throws. We had some open guys that we didn’t connect on and that really changed the game for us early. It was sloppy early on, but I was happy with how they came out in the second half and found a way to play like they were supposed to play,” Taggart said. “Again, I wasn’t necessarily happy with our beginning but was happy with the finish of our football team. There’s a lot of work to be done. I don’t think we’re anywhere near where we can or should be, but that’s the beauty of only three games, there’s more games to play and practices to get done.”

Offense

The offense started slow once again as they had two straight three and outs. Throughout the first half, there were noticeable drops from FAU’s receivers where the score would’ve looked a lot different. Je’Quan Burton had a couple of drops where his high-end speed would’ve resulted in easy touchdowns. LaJohntay Wester and D’Marcus Adams also had drops, some in situations where it would’ve continued a drive. 

However, the offense found their rhythm in the second and especially the third quarter where they trailed away from the Rams. FAU quarterback N’Kosi Perry threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns and a rushing score in the first quarter. 

Once again, Perry’s numbers could’ve been higher if not with the drops, but still put up a solid performance. The key aspect for him was not giving up on his receivers despite the drops. 

“I definitely trust my guys, but the way I look at it is, who else am I going to throw to?” Perry said. “They’re my guys, I got to put my trust in them and that’s what I tell them. ‘I’m coming back to you every time,’ I just try to encourage, encourage, encourage. That’s all I can do.”

Wester had another monster game catching for 101 yards on 10 catches. In back-to-back weeks, he caught for over 100 yards, which is the first time since former FAU receiver Jovon Durante in 2018. Another worthwhile statistic is that he’s the first pass-catcher since Harrison Bryant in 2019 to have 10 catches in a game.  Those statistics are with a receiving touchdown that he had in the third quarter where he showed off his speed for 25 yards. 

Perry also found TJ Chase in the endzone on an incredible one-handed grab for 17 yards. This had to be great for Chase’s confidence as he was a highly-anticipated player coming into the season but only had three catches before this game. 

“I think the thing with TJ [Chase] is just consistency,” Perry said. “He’s one of the most talented receivers we have as far as IQ and being a technician on the field, and I think he had a great week of practice and that’s why he made the play that he did in the game.”

The rushing game was effective against the Rams, which is great to see as FAU’s lead back Johnny Ford didn’t play today. Taggart said Ford will be good to go for next week’s game against Air Force and used yesterday as a chance for him to rest.

Without him, the Owls ran for 246 yards in total with Malcolm Davidson getting 14 carries (led the team) for 63 yards, Larry McCammon got eight carries 37 yards, but redshirt freshman Kelvin Dean Jr. stole the show late in the game. 

Dean Jr. on nine carries ran for 74 yards and had a touchdown in the fourth quarter that made the game unattainable for Fordham. 

Defense

On the other side of the ball, the Owls showed off their defensive prowess again, causing three-and-outs, turnovers, and making big plays. They never gave the Rams a chance to make a comeback in this game. 

Let me throw you some stats that show how good the defense played today: Fordham went 1-15 on third downs, they had 29 rushing yards, and caused two turnovers. 

Cornerback Zyon Gilbert had an interception in the endzone and returned it to the house, but was called back by penalties, however, the pick still counted. The pick-six hopes came true later as safety Teja Young recorded Fordham’s QB Tim DeMorat’s second interception. In fact, Gilbert laid out a nice block that helped Young score. 

Gilbert talks about the defense and how stopping the run was critical for FAU’s success.

“It just by the way we practice every day, we focused on stopping the run after the Florida game, for them rushing like 400 plus yards, that’s unacceptable,” Gilbert said. “So we just made that an emphasis every week, and you see what happened when they threw the ball.”

Defensive lineman Jaylen Joyner had a solid day as he recorded a sack, making this his second straight game to do so. He’s also the only player with a sack on the Owls so far this season.

Joyner showed up to the post-game conference in his work shirt, a statement that coach Taggart and the players added of the players “going to work.” He talks about the performance the defense had against Fordham.

“The defense as a whole played pretty good, 29 rushing yards, yeah, we emphasized that for the past couple of weeks so I felt like we did excellently,” Joyner said. “Pass rush today, we made an emphasis that we would get after the quarterback, and I felt like we did that. We had two turnovers, so that was pretty good. So, overall we played great defense.”

Team Growth

As Taggart and Perry said post-game last week and they repeated themselves last night, what’s stopping the Owls from being at their best is themselves. It was apparent that FAU had self-inflicting wounds.

Besides two muffed punts on special teams that gave Fordham the ball, the Owls had nine penalties that cost them 52 yards. The “false start” flag was thrown a lot towards FAU’s way during offensive drives that were effective.

Taggart says that’s not “winning football” and has aspects that he wants to emphasize in practice this upcoming week.

“Execution, taking care of the football. Those to me are the only thing that got us tonight. Well, execution taking care of the football and the penalties. You know, we talk to the guys all the time about what it takes to win, and on offense that we can’t turn the ball over, defense getting us some takeaways, our offense didn’t turn it over, we turned it over on special teams,” Taggart said. “So we got to clean those things up on special teams and cut down these penalties, and really focus on executing because that’s what is going to take in order for us to be elite and to be a championship football team. I know our guys are up for it.”

Either way, a win is a win. The Owls are now 2-1 and while the Rams seemed like a pushover, the schedule doesn’t get easier as they’ll travel to Air Force next Saturday, Sept. 25. After, they enter conference play with their first game against their Shula Bowl opponent, the FIU Golden Panthers. 

Photo courtesy of FAU Athletics.

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Zachary Weinberger
I'm an avid sports watcher of the big three teams based in Miami, Florida: Dolphins, Heat, and Marlins. Also, love professional wrestling! At Lemon City Live, I'm a beat writer for the FAU Football team.

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