FAU Football: Owls drop first game of the season to the Gators, but show promise

FAU football

Gainesville, FL – The FAU Football program lose their first game of the season against the Florida Gators, 35-14. However, there was a lot to love from the Owls. 

How can a loss be considered a positive outlook? We’ll talk about it.

FAU was the massive underdogs heading into Saturday, with people writing them off before the first whistle blew. I can’t blame the naysayers as Florida was ranked No. 13 ranked team in the country. However, as talked about in my preview, the Gators had some flaws and aspects that could be taken advantage of. 

Both sides of the ball for Florida Atlantic needed to do key steps. For the defense, it was to keep QB Emory Jones in the pocket, force him to throw, and maintain the run game. For the offense, it was simple: score. 

What ended up happening was the defense giving the offense multiple opportunities to stay within striking distance. While the offense showed signs of succession, the talent of the Gators’ front seven dictated the game. However, it wasn’t a breeze for Florida as they were competing for most of the game. 

FAU Head Coach Willie Taggart gives his initial take on the loss.

“Well, we knew coming in, that we had to play a perfect ballgame when we go up against a team of Florida’s caliber,” Taggart said. “We had a lot of mistakes that just can’t happen. It just wasn’t a clean game from our standpoint that we got to get corrected, but the beauty of this, they’re all things that we can correct, and they can get corrected pretty quickly.”

Taggart also said how he’s proud of the team for fighting back until the very end. 

New QB1, Who dis?

There was pressure on QB N’Kosi Perry throughout the whole game, so when the offense was moving, the drive would come to a halt due to Florida’s talented defensive line. University of Florida’s Zachary Carter accounted for three sacks and was disruptive against FAU’s offensive line. 

On the offense, it was Perry’s first game starting for the Owls and it was a promising one. On a top 15 team in the country, he threw for 261 yards and one touchdown. He made the most out of bad situations as he was getting pressured. While he was sacked numerous amount of times, other times saw Perry evade pressure and hit the open man.


However, he can only do so much, as in FAU’s second drive, he fumbled the ball as we sacked early in the play.

Taggart evaluates Perry in his first game as a part of FAU:

“Well I thought he did some good things and I thought he had some plays that he would really like to have back,” Taggart said. “I think some of the plays that he missed, just more reps and more understanding and he’ll be better at what we’re trying to get accomplished on some of the plays.”

Perry showed off his arm, his elusiveness, and his calm and collected attitude even when 80,000 fans were screaming at him. Once he gets fully associated with the offense and the chemistry with pass-catchers is on point, he could have one of the better quarterback seasons in FAU history. 

He spread the ball around as receivers like Brandon Robinson, D’Marcus Adams, and especially John Mitchell, who moved from receiver to tight end.

Mitchell talks about his first game at the position and how he would improve this season. 

“It’s a whole different world out there, I’ve had to learn a lot of stuff on the fly, but I don’t want to say I’m content because we didn’t we didn’t get the dub there, they’re a good team,” Mitchell said. “I feel like I kind of knocked the cobwebs off since it’s been a long time since I’ve played football, but I do want to improve on just game speed a little bit. I want to be flying around out there, I don’t want to be hesitant on any occasion. So moving forward, that’s what I’m going to work on as soon as I catch the ball, it’s go mode.”

Mitchell finished the game with four catches for 51 yards. As the season progresses, the connection from Perry to him will be one to watch as Mitchell is a big target.

When asked about Perry and what he thought of him out there, Mitchell found a lot to like.

“I just think he’s really poised, he doesn’t seem to get rattled. He’s very confident very comfortable in the pocket in the huddle,” Mitchell said. “So I’m happy we got him. I’d be happy with any of our quarterbacks, but he’s doing a very good job.”

Optimism for 2021

The big plays from the offense came in the second half when Perry found Adams for 46 yards on an absolute dime. This led to the first touchdown scored by FAU. Perry also found Robinson for his first passing touchdown as an Owl on their last drive of the game. 

The offense also saw new FAU running back Johnny Ford get involved in the running and passing game, but was hurt in the first half, so they went with Malcolm Davidson. Both players showed explosiveness and hardness when running the football, though they didn’t run the football all that often. Davidson led the way with nine carries for 52 yards and when Ford came back in the game, he finished with seven carries for 27 yards. 

Overall about the offense, there was a lot to like here, even if the team did not score until the fourth quarter. They made the Florida defense absolutely play their hardest every single play. 

With Perry under center, it’ll be exciting for FAU fans to watch him in conference play which is typically a step down from what the Gators are. 

Despite giving up 35 points, the defense under Mike Stoops played well. When it came to the passing game against Emory Jones, Florida couldn’t go anywhere. Jones finished with 113 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. 

Diashun Moss got the first interception in the red zone which gave FAU a bit of momentum, giving the ball back to the offense in hopes to score. 

Teja Young was awarded the second interception to go along with 10 total tackles for the game. 

Young gave his personal evaluation of the defense after their loss to Florida. 

“Well, I mean, obviously we didn’t win the football game so we didn’t complete that task, but I mean, everything that happened today are just correctable mistakes,” Young said. “We’re just looking to improve the little things that help you win ball games, open-field tackling, lining up right, being able to adjust the formation, those things win ball games.”

The Achilles heel for the FAU defense was trying to defend the talented running back room of the Gators. In total, Florida’s ground game ran for 400 yards. 

Yeah, that’s bad.

RB Malik Davis ran for 104 yards and a touchdown, RB Dameon Pierce ran for 31 yards but also had two touchdowns. A lot of the rushing also came from the quarterbacks as while Jones wasn’t impressive through the air, he ran for 74 yards. 

Florida QB Anthony Richardson came in and out of the game but proved to be the best QB in that room as he ran for 160 yards with a score. 

Game Notes

While the Owls came away with a loss, they weren’t blown out, they were competitive for most of the game. I mentioned it in the preview for the game, FAU should absolutely look at the positives here on both sides of the ball. The offense moved against an impressive Florida defense and the defense stopped the Gators’ offense on a lot of occasions. 

FAU fans should leave last night’s game excited for the season ahead, as they showed that within the conference, they’ll be a team to look out for.

Again, they covered the 23.5 point spread against a top 15 team in the country, that’s a win to me. If anything, Gators’ fans should leave that game worried.

FAU will return to Boca Raton, Florida for their home opener on Sept. 11 against Georgia Southern.

Photo courtesy of FAU Athletics

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