Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Split personality

The Owls bounced back from their nightmare season opener with a much-improved performance against the South Carolina Gamecocks. But once again, it was the second half which ultimately unraveled the team.

Following an overall impressive first half, which included good kick returns and a bruising running game, FAU squandered an opportunity to take the first lead of its young season.  

With the score 17-16 to start the third quarter, and in front of 72,000-plus fans, quarterback Rusty Smith dropped to pass and, with pressure in his face, made an ill-advised throw. Instead of throwing the ball out of bounds or taking a sack, Smith released a foolish throw that found its way into the hands of USC cornerback Stephon Gilmore at FAU’s 38.

That was the beginning of the end for the Owls.

With a short field in his sights, Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia led his offense toward the end zone. Running back Brian Maddox would seal South Carolina’s three-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run, widening a lead that would never truly be challenged.
“We came out in the second half, and the first play of the drive I threw a pick,” said Smith about the interception. “That shoots your momentum, and puts your confidence level in the tank.”

While Smith’s errant pass will be seen as the play that began FAU’s second-half meltdown, there was a lot more to the 38-16 loss than just one throw. The mistakes that plagued the Owls against Nebraska in the season opener began to spread throughout the team.

Dropped balls, turnovers and missed tackles became a common theme in the final 30 minutes. While missed tackles were something FAU struggled with all game, they were more evident in the second half because – unlike the first half – the defense could not make the big plays to kill off USC’s drives.
“I believe we just got complacent [in the second half]. We were so excited that we were sticking with these guys,” said defensive lineman Dino Cox, who registered FAU’s lone sack of the game. “We let three, four balls get thrown deep and we weren’t getting any pass rush, any pressure on Garcia.
“We weren’t running to the ball like we were supposed to. Either guys were winded or they were busy staying blocked. We weren’t running to the ball trying to get to him. It was like we were just watching.”

There were some concerns on the offensive side of the ball, too, with turnovers being the main issue, and one the team needs to eliminate quickly.

Owls Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger confessed to being puzzled by the second-half collapses, but he said the team will be looking for reasons as to why they continue to run into these issues.

The players also frustratingly admitted that eliminating these slow second halves are a must.
“Right now the stats are showing that the second half is our kryptonite,” said cornerback Tavious Polo. “There is something we have got to do to get better in the second half.”

As bad as the second half for FAU was, there were signs of progress from the 49-3 season-opening loss to Nebraska. Kick returns were one of the improved aspects, with the Owls averaging 26 yards per return

Running back Alfred Morris also continued to shine despite this being his first year playing collegiate football. Morris’ numbers may not look that great on paper (20 carries for 79 yards), but his running helped FAU set up the passing game and its two touchdowns. In fact, FAU’s second touchdown was a play-action pass that had all – yes, all – USC defenders looking Morris’ way while Smith found a wide-open Jamari Grant in the end zone.

Another sign of optimism for the Owls is that their toughest games of the year are behind them. Yes, they’re 0-2, but after the pair of self-reflective losses, the Owls should be well equipped to dispose of their putrid Sun Belt Conference opposition.  

If the Owls are to start winning games, though, they will need to find the perfect antidote for their kryptonite.

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