Des-Troyed: Owls outmatched against potent Trojans

FOOTBALL

If FAU thought they could make up for their historic loss to University of Alabama-Birmingham by returning to Alabama and defeating conference rival Troy, then they were sadly mistaken.

Two weeks after giving up a school-record 622 yards in a demoralizing defeat to UAB, the Owls entered their game against Troy at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium knowing an upset would give them a realistic shot of ending the season 6-6 with the possibility of reaching a third consecutive bowl game. But the Owls came out flat, allowing Troy to a total 651 yards in a humiliating 47-21 loss.

“It was an embarrassment for our football program,” FAU Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger told fauowlaccess.com. “It embarrassed everybody, [including] the university and FAU supporters.”

The annihilation dropped the Owls to 3-7 (3-3 in the Sun Belt Conference) and handed Troy (8-3, 7-0) a fourth straight conference title, a conference title that Trojans linebacker Bear Woods feels was easier to finish off than expected.

“That was probably the most non-chippy FAU game I’ve been in, and I think that’s because we established who’s the team right before the get-go,” Woods told dothaneagle.com. “We made them lie down.”

While the game may not have been the most physical encounter between the rivals, the bad blood was evident. The game had hoards of physical play, including numerous ferocious tackles by both teams.

In the end, though, FAU’s hard-hitting running back Alfred Morris’ 137-yard day (he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season versus Troy) could not stop the Trojans from claiming victory and celebrating their conference championship.

“It hurts to see how they feel,” FAU linebacker Edward Bradwell told palmbeachpost.com.

What may hurt just as bad might be Schnellenberger’s response to the demolishing defeat. Schnellenberger, usually a person with plenty to say, was brief in his post-game interview and told reporters he would talk more after he saw the game film on Nov. 22.

Re-watching the game is likely to have Schnellenberger yanking out his remaining white hairs, and his players will probably get an earful afterward, especially now that the team has no shot at reaching a bowl game.

“I’m crushed,” Bradwell told palmbeachpost.com. “As a senior class, if we could go back and change anything, we would. I’m hurt. I’m disappointed in myself as a leader of the defense. I felt like I failed the defense.

“The only thing I can do now is see if I can get the boys better for next year.”

The younger defensive players do need to improve because the majority of them will return next season, and with two meaningless games remaining for the Owls this season (versus Western Kentucky and at Florida International University), it is time for the coaches to experiment.

Schnellenberger and Defensive Coordinator Kirk Hoza need to tinker with their defense, and especially the defensive line, which is the root of the Owls’ woes this season. The unit simply does not apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, nor does it get penetration in the run game, and that puts the rest of the defense in a bind. And while the unit as a whole has been inadequate, the two most disappointing players have been defensive end Kevin Cyrille and senior defensive tackle Josh Savidge. Much was expected from these two, but Cyrille has been as quiet on the field as he is off the field, and Savidge has been a non-factor all season long.

So, what exactly can the Owls try with their front four? One thing would be inserting linebacker Michael Lockley at defensive end. It couldn’t hurt, especially considering Lockley was benched in favor of freshman David Hinds following the UAB fiasco. At 6 feet 10 inches and 245 pounds, Lockley has the size, speed and strength for the position, and it is not like one of the team’s most physically gifted players could do much worse than the incumbents.

Another move could be inserting linebacker Yourhighness Morgan along the defensive line. Morgan’s size is identical to Lockley’s, and he could prove to be an intriguing pass-rusher.

But while the outcome of any switches is uncertain, moves like these must be tested by Schnellenberger and Hoza in the Owls’ final two games to see which player personnel works best, and who can contribute where.

Otherwise, this defense will remain shoddy, and the Owls will continue to lose games by big margins.