Respectable result

Franco Panizo

FAU hosted its first home game of the 2010 season against Michigan State on Sept. 11, but the Owls had to travel 1,120 miles to Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., to do so.

The Owls made the trip to Michigan to make amends to the Spartans after having initially promised them to play the game on its pending on-campus stadium in Boca Raton.

Complications in funding changed those plans, so the Owls decided to host the game at the home of the Detroit Lions, where FAU suffered a 30-17 loss in front of an announced crowd of 36,124.

As anticipated, the Owls were outmatched by the superior Spartans and fell to 1-1 on the season. What was not expected was how FAU would make a comeback attempt in the second half — a comeback attempt that was marred by questionable coaching decisions.

With the score 30-14 in favor of MSU, FAU had a chance to pull within one score as it reached the Spartans’ one-yard line. For some reason, however, head coach Howard Schnellenberger opted to kick a field goal on fourth and goal

instead of attempting to score a six-yard touchdown.

Ross Gornall’s kick was good, but the Owls had nothing to lose in attempting to try to score and get a two-point conversion to bring the game within eight. Had they not scored at all, they would have lost 30-14 as opposed to 30-17. Big whoop.

The questionable decision by Schnellenberger and his coaching staff notwithstanding, FAU actually put forth a performance worthy of some recognition.

Forcing two turnovers (an interception and a fumble), seeing tight end Rob Housler catch for 75 yards on 7 catches, and the continued stellar play from quarterback Jeff Van Camp and wide receiver Lester Jean should give FAU faithful enough confidence to think that this team is capable of putting together a strong season.

Another encouraging sign for FAU was seeing its offense sustain long drives. On two separate occasions, once in each half, the Owls managed to put together drives longer than seven minutes, and both ended with FAU’s only touchdowns.

In the first quarter, the Owls marched 77 yards before running back Alfred Morris capped the 15-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run. In the third, FAU went 80 yards on 16 plays. The scoring play on that drive was a two-yard pass from Van Camp to tailback Xavier Stinson.

As many positives as there were, there were also negatives. Despite forcing two turnovers, the defense could not avoid conceding a big play when, in the third quarter, it allowed MSU running back Edwin Baker to run loose for an 80-yard score.

On offense, the offensive line was dominated, as evidenced by Morris’ paltry 54 yards on 20 carries. Also, besides Jean, who caught six balls for 99 yards, FAU lacked a wide receiver capable of shouldering the load. Avery Holley was second in receiving among wideouts, with three catches for 23 yards.

Those are areas of concern for FAU as it heads into its first bye week of the year, but the Owls likely won’t see competition of such a high caliber again during its remaining 10 games.

That’s not to say that being complacent with what they have will be enough for the Owls down the road. The offensive line still needs to keep on growing and gelling together, Housler must continue to emerge as a go-to guy, and the defense needs to force turnovers just as it did against MSU.

FAU gets a chance to fine-tune those aspects for two weeks before it plays its next game, an actual home game at Lockhart Stadium against North Texas.